Sympathetic Stupid

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Inequality Kills

... and on the same topic, here's an explanation of why inequality is bad.

This Peter Wilby article from the Guardian is a decent read, though I suspect that looking at the source, The Impact Of Inequality by Richard Wilkinson (social epidemiologist? what does the conjunction mean?) would be more illuminating. Just a few points from the article:

- tax credits for poor working families in the US from 1994 produced up to a 16% gain in reading test scores.
- life expectancies for US 16-year old white males in rich areas are mid-70s, in poor areas less than 60.
- families on less than £10k are twice as likely to argue daily than families on more than £20k.
- life expectancies in Japan and Sweden are high; they're also two of the most equal societies.
- violence is more common in societies with higher income differences.
- more unequal US states seem to have higher homicide rates, racial hostility, discrimination against women.
- involvement in community life like voting is highest where inequality is lowest (US and Italy).

Seems like the same status anxiety which is an economic 'incentive' to consume is higher when there's less equality, logically. The more status anxiety, the less happiness, therefore the more anti-social behaviour. This is obviously conjecture but something's behind the figures.

This post on the excellent Environmental and Urban Economics blog shows the relationship between deaths from natural disasters and income. Guess what? 'Fewer people die from comparable shocks ... in richer nations relative to poorer nations.'