The lottery of birth
The lottery of birth

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The lottery of birth

1.3.1 The best boss in the world

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Figure 15

Throughout history, in every society, social differences, followed by social differentiation (the ranking of people according to particular social and economic traits), has led to structural inequality (the seemingly permanent inequality extending beyond the individual into the structure of a society).

In 2015, Dan Price, CEO of a Seattle-based tech company handling financial payments, gathered together the workforce of 120 to tell them about a study that he had been reading from Princeton University. This study had found that earning above $70,000 did not have a significant impact on a person’s happiness. So he announced that he was going to put in place a two-year programme leading to all staff, including himself (currently earning $1m), earning $70,000. This would mean a pay rise for 70% of staff. Dan Price said:

‘I really do view everything I do as a responsibility and seeing growing inequality and how it is harder to just make ends meet and live the normal American dream,’ said Price. ‘Things are getting more expensive, especially in a city like Seattle and the wages aren’t keeping up.’

Some (very few) people, like Dan Price, have the power and means to directly challenge structural inequality and take that opportunity. To most people, it seems that the same people, and the same groups of people, still hold on to a greater share of economic and social resources and the health, wealth and power that go with them. However, Dan Price and many others, including politicians, have noticed something else.

In the next section, you will read about a recent study of inequality.


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