Richard Wilkinson: Equality & wellbeing (UCL)

[ Music ]>>Well, we’ve been looking at
the effects of different amounts of inequality in different
rich, developed societies, measuring inequality simply
by the size of the income gap between rich and
poor in each country. We also looked at the same
question amongst the 50 American states as a sort of
different, separate test bed, and what we found is
really quite extraordinary: almost every social problem
is worse in the more unequal countries. So, for instance, there’s
more violence as measured by homicide rates, many
more teenage births, mental health is
much, much worse, the proportion of the population
in prison much higher, measures of child
wellbeing much poorer in more unequal countries. So it looks as if almost all
the problems that we think of as having these social
gradients, being more common at the bottom of the social
ladder, get worse in countries with bigger income differences. And basically that’s saying
they’re worse in countries like the United States
or Britain or Portugal – those are the more unequal of
the rich developed countries – and better in the
Nordic countries and Japan, countries like that. But really the whole, all
the countries spanning out – the level of inequality is
closely related to the scale of all these problems, and
also health seems to be worse, as measured by life expectancy or infant mortality,
things like that. One of the really
striking things is that these problems are not
just a little bit worse, I’m not talking about
say 25% or 30% worse, I’m talking about problems
being, well, mental illness, three times as common
in the more unequal of the rich market democracies. But homicide rates may
be six times as high. The proportion of the
population in prison or teenage birthrates eight
to even ten times as high. Really huge differences. And that is partly because
it’s not just the poor who seem to be affected by inequality. The differences are so big
because we’re all affected, the vast majority of the
population seems to do worse in a more unequal country
and so when one’s talking about wellbeing in
populations, it looks to us as if inequality has a
very damaging effect on levels of wellbeing. And of course most of these
measures I’ve been talking about are pretty hard measures,
like life expectancy or homicide or the proportion
of the population in prison, they’re not soft measures
to do with judgments and subjective viewpoints. And it looks to us
increasingly as if we need to – if we’re going to improve
the quality of life, the real quality of life for
human beings in the rich world – what we have to do
is stop thinking about higher material
standards – that no longer seems to be related to measures
of wellbeing or happiness or health, for instance – but turn our attention
to the quality of the social environment,
and it looks to us as if a really important
determinant of the quality of the social environment is
the scale of income differences. It’s almost as if the scale of income differences
gave us a handle on the psychosocial well-being
of whole populations. It’s really quite
an exciting picture.


  1. Great interview

  2. Portugal's crime rate, percentage of population in prison and pretty much most of the other negative social issues are actually a lot lower than many, 'more equal' countries. Their healthcare system for example is ranked 12th in the world ahead of Luxembourg, Iceland, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark etc. all of which are more equal.

  3. Equality of outcome exists where the fruits of those who do the most work is distributed amongst those who do the least.
    The results of equality of opportunity is that those who do the most and best work get to keep the fruits of their labour.

    The problem lies in the fact that those who do the least amount of work are still tied into the state by having to pay tax and it is this tax that enslaves those that want to do the least into the worst kind of jobs. If you take away the tax, which is basically unecessary then those who do the least may likely be inspired into making sure they look after themselves better.

    What we are doing is trying to punish those that succeed over those that are incapable. Natural selection is being strangely skewed and the outcome may not be as desireable as we wish.

    Those that feel enslaved and used should just not work at all if that is how they feel. No one owes them success wealth and happiness and believe me I talk from the perspective of someone who grew up in poverty and lived practically hand to mouth all his life.

  4. Off the track drunk comment:

    Anything Butt USA

    US is anything and everything

    And then again

    It's anything but us

    It doesn't act like a friend

    Us is socialism militarily

    The enemy used in the past

    The carricature that will last

    as long as we repeat it "verily"

    We know it's debunked entirely

    THis straw man argument

    This primitive decoy

    It works because your government

    was bought by the Greedy Boys

    You have to stand up

    against you monetary rapist

    Make justice just

    – Then you'll be the greatest

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