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Understanding economic inequality
Understanding economic inequality

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5.2 Inequality and economic success

Economic growth is not the only way to assess society’s wellbeing. There are other important factors relating to the quality of life, happiness, public health and safety (recall the contribution of Amartya Sen in Activity 3). Many economists and other social scientists have argued that income inequality affects these aspects of economic success. Complete Activity 13 to learn how.

Activity 13 Inequality and society

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Watch a presentation by Professor Richard Wilkinson about the social costs of inequality and answer the questions below.

How economic inequality harms societies [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

What is the difference between life expectancy and income in local neighbourhoods in England and Wales?

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Answer

The poorer the neighbourhood, the lower life expectancy.

Name five indicators of health and social problems mentioned by Professor Wilkinson which inequality is likely to exacerbate.

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Answer

Worse child wellbeing, life expectancy, mental illness, social distrust, infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, obesity and lower social mobility.

Why does Professor Wilkinson say that Americans chasing the American Dream should go to Denmark?

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Answer

This is because social mobility is lower in the USA than in the more egalitarian Denmark. This means that rich parents are more likely to have rich children, while children of poorer parents are more likely to stay poorer. The American Dream is an idea that everyone has the same opportunities to climb up the social ladder – but evidence shows that this is more likely to be the case not in the USA but in Denmark.