Friday, September 7, 2012

Why Inequality Matters

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies have produced a booklet 'Why Inequality Matters". This builds on the pioneering work of Wilkinson and Pickett in The Spirit Level.

As the booklet points out the case against inequality is not an abstract, moral argument. With an abundance of evidence, The Spirit Level dramatically revealed that it actually has an impact on people’s everyday lives. And as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has shown, there is a link between inequality and financial crises. As he pointed out, it is no accident that both major modern crises – the first beginning in 1929, the second in 2008 – coincided with historic levels of inequality.

The chapter on health highlights that there are now over 200 studies of income inequality and health. Life expectancy, infant death rates, low birth weight, the number of people badly overweight, the number of people with poor mental health have repeatedly been shown to be worse in more unequal societies. The UK has the fourth lowest life expectancy out of the 23 most developed countries. The three countries that have even lower life expectancy are those with even greater income inequality – Portugal, the USA and Singapore.

Put simply, and that is this booklets strong point, inequality kills. That is why it should be central to our thinking on health policy in Scotland in the coming years.

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