Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Income Inequality -- So What?

We hear a lot these days about income inequality, particularly with the OWS movement in the news, and spreading across the US and the world.  But, so what?  We also hear that the rich are getting richer because they earn it.  They are the engine that drives the economy.  They are the job creators.  They need to earn the big bucks otherwise there will be nothing to trickle down to the rest of us.

But what is the price we pay, as a society, for allowing this income inequality to exist and, in fact, grow at an alarming rate?

The Equality Trust takes a look at the impact of income and wealth inequality around the world.  Here are the highlights of their findings.
  • People in more equal societies live longer, a smaller proportion of children die in infancy and self-rated health is better. 
  • People in more equal societies are far less likely to experience mental illness.
  • People in more equal societies are less likely to use illegal drugs.
  • Children do better at school in more equal societies.
  • Unequal societies are harsher, they imprison a higher proportion of people.
  • Obesity is less common in more equal societies.
  • There is more social mobility in more equal societies.
  • Communities are more cohesive and people trust each other more in more equal societies.
  • Homicide rates are lower and children experience less violence in more equal societies.
  • Teenage motherhood is less common in more equal societies.
  • Unicef measures of child well-being are better in more equal societies.
  • Further economic growth will not improve our health or well-being. For a better quality of life we need greater income equality.
  • More equal societies spend a higher proportion their income on overseas aid and perform better on the Global Peace Index.
  • Inequality fuels status competition, individualism and consumerism. It makes it harder to gain public support for policies to reduce global warming.
So what does this all mean?  Applied to the United Kingdom (and I would assume similar results for the US), it means:
  • Murder rates could halve
  • Mental illness could reduce by two thirds
  • Obesity could halve
  • Imprisonment could reduce by 80%
  • Teen births could reduce by 80%
  • Levels of trust could increase by 85%     
Watch the video below for today's Inequality Report.

So, what world do you want to live in?


  1. All valid observations, and valuable for debating the right since they're verifiable by objective data. I think there's a subtler point too, though.

    As GNP has grown over the last few decades, incomes have stagnated for the bottom 90% or so of the population while skyrocketing for the top 1% (which is how things became so unequal). That is, most of the growth in output has gone to a tiny, wealthy fraction of society. They didn't produce it, though. I don't begrudge the wealth of someone like Bill Gates who really did produce things of that much value, but the financial elite doesn't produce anything; it just manipulates and rearranges money to generate income for itself. Yet they're the ones who skimmed off the lion's share of the increase in production over the last couple of decades -- an increase made possible by the other 99% working harder or more efficiently.

    The ultra-wealthy financial elite didn't even get that way by making huge contributions to society -- they're a parasite class that merely figured out how to game the system.

  2. Great post. Very convincing for us 99-percenters.

    Unfortunately, the 1-percenters -- and their inbred sycophants -- would look at the same information and go "so what's your point?"

  3. Duh, the source of that graph is ... (ahem) ... Bloomberg. Shall we thank him or drive a stake through his heart?

  4. Is there nothing that income equality can't do ?

    Cures Obesity.
    Cures Baldness.
    Cures Body Odor.
    Cures Global Warming .
    Cures Bad Breath.
    Cures Teenage Pregnancy.

  5. Where in my post or its references does it talk about cures?

    Improvements? Yes!

  6. Except for Germany, Denmark and Sweden, forcibly being Robbing Hood and taking from the rich to give to the poor and taking a big cut for government, does not work.

    I saw this quote on another site and thought it summarizes the failures of extreme socialism . "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others " . Of course that is from the classic, Animal Farm .

  7. Those are all good reasons for a massive forced redistribution of wealth!

  8. First of all, I think this was a great article! However, Jack's comment was completely ignorant.

    I always say I have never met a liberal who wanted a redistribution of wealth and that the American Dream is compatible with capitalism and people should be able to aspire to wealth.

    I cannot say that anymore. Now I have to say, except for Jack Jodell, I have never heard of a liberal who ...

    Damn it, Jack! I can always count on you.

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