Inequality and democracy: The UK case in the last thirty years

Soci, Anna

Wilkinson and Pickett consider the income distribution in 23 rich countries (U.S. included) and plot the ratio between the income received by the top 20% of the population to that received by the bottom 20% - as a measure of inequality - against the Index of health and social problems built on the UN Development Program data (averaged for the reporting period 2003-2006) for the same countries. This index - like the well known Human Development Index (HDI) - is a simple average of the data for the following social phenomenon: level of trust, mental illness (no data for Denmark), life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity, children educational performance (no data for UK), teenage birth, homicides, imprisonment rates, social mobility. Without entering into the details, the main and robust message coming out from the book is that among the 23 rich countries the more unequal ones do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator. The U.S. - the most unequal country in the sample - is the most striking example of that, followed by Portugal and the UK (both places where the gap between rich and poor is relatively large), whilst the Scandinavian countries invariably rank last. The message is clear: social problems were caused by material life conditions the more affluent countries should have performed better than the less affluent (still in the same basket of rich countries). Instead, the evidence suggests that it is the relative position within a society to matter the most: where income differences are bigger, social distances are bigger and social stratification more remarkable.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Italian Academy
Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Italian Academy Fellows' Seminar Working Papers
Published Here
October 12, 2012