Lottery of birth
Lottery of birth

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Lottery of birth

7.2 Thinking point: the spirit level hypothesis

The ‘spirit level hypothesis’ has been widely read and debated. For example, the UN report ‘Inequality Matters: Report on the World Social Situation 2013’, that you heard about earlier, acknowledges the validity of the ‘spirit level hypothesis’.

In this report , the view of American economist Joseph Stiglitz was included:

There is growing evidence and recognition of the powerful and corrosive effects of inequality on economic growth, poverty reduction, social and economic stability and socially-sustainable development … the many adverse consequences of inequality affect the well-being not only of those at the bottom of the income distribution, but also those at the top. Specifically, inequality leads to a less stable, less efficient economic system that stifles economic growth and the participation of all members of society in the labour market.

(Stiglitz, 2012)

Activity 5

There are arguments for and against the ‘spirit level hypothesis’. Find some coverage of the debate and summarise it, with a link to your source.

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So, for example, Christopher Snowdon, at the Institute of Economic Affairs has disputed the statistics, alleging selection bias and has written ‘The Spirit Level Delusion’ – you can see it here.

The Spirit Level revisited [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]


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