Thursday, June 23, 2005

The impact of inequality

A new book from Prof. Richard Wilkinson, a social epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, promises to introduce some new data into an old argument:

"Professor Wilkinson's research shows that if Britain changed from being one of the most unequal of European countries to being among the most equal, the result would be radical. Average life expectancy would increase, homicide rates and levels of violence would fall, people would trust each other more, and community life would be revitalised. As such, the benefits of greater equality would be seen across all sectors of society [...] Wider income differences lead to bigger social distances and increased discrimination. They lead to slower social mobility and increased residential segregation of rich and poor. People become less involved in community life, suffer more violence, and are much less likely to trust each other [...]
"Professor Wilkinson also looks at what nations, communities and employers can do to create a healthy social environment. He points out that because the data he uses comes primarily from existing market democracies, it shows that even the small differences in inequality between them matter, and that there are numerous practical policies that would improve the quality of life for all of us. As well as the more conventional methods of redistribution, he suggests extending democracy into economic institutions and workplaces."
Full press release here.



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