Because more equal societies work better for everyone

Frequently Asked Questions

Surely throwing money at poor people wouldn’t help?

The evidence suggests that the wellbeing of the poor is more closely tied to income levels than is the wellbeing of the better off. When parking fines or a washing machine repair make a major difference to a whole month’s budgeting and sometimes  lead people to borrow from loan sharks or fall behind with the rent, there can be little doubt that...

What about the inequality between men and women?

There is a tendency for women’s status to be better in more equal countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, as well as in the more equal US states. Japan is however an important exception. Although Sweden and Japan are among the most equal of the rich developed societies and both do well in terms of health and a wide range of other...

Can income differences really be changed? Aren’t they just a reflection of human nature?

No. The scale of income inequality is very different in different countries – and even in different states of the USA. The more unequal of the rich developed countries (Singapore, USA, Portugal and the UK) are about twice as unequal as countries like Japan, Norway, Sweden and Finland.  There are also big differences in the levels of inequality...

OECD gives figures on income inequality for rich countries which differ from the ones you use. What happens if you use their figures?

There are lots of different ways of measuring income distribution. In The Spirit Level we averaged the figures published in the UN Human Development Reports for the years 2003 to 2006. The UN figures for the rich countries are basically the same as the ones published by the World Bank and came originally from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS)...

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