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Effects of Inequality

Effects of Inequality

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Published by: emilbh on Oct 31, 2008
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12/04/2012

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Effects of inequality
Social cohesion
Research has shown a clear link between income inequality and social cohesion. In more equalsocieties, people are much more likely to trust each other, measures of  social capital suggest greater community involvement, and homicide rates are consistently lower. One of the earliest writers to note the link between economic equality and social cohesion wasAlexis de Tocqueville in his 
.Writing in 1831:Among the new objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States,none struck me with greater force than the equality of conditions. I easily perceived theenormous influence that this primary fact exercises on the workings of society. It gives aparticular direction to the public mind, a particular turn to the laws, new maxims to thosewho govern, and particular habits to the governed... It creates opinions, gives rise tosentiments, inspires customs, and modifies everything it does not produce... I kept findingthat fact before me again and again as a central point to which all of my observations wereleading.Income inequality and the social capital index in 50 U.S. states.Equality is correlated with higher levels of  social capital  In a 2002 paper,
 Eric Uslaner and Mitchell Brown showed that there is a high correlationbetween the amount of trust in society and the amount of income equality. They did this bycomparing results from the question "would others take advantage of you if they got the chance?"in U.S General Social Survey and others with statistics on income inequality. Robert Putnam
 
,professor of political science at Harvard,established links between social capital  and economic inequality. His most important studies (Putnam, Leonardi, and Nanetti 1993,
 
Putnam 2000) established these links in both the United States and in Italy.On the relationship of  inequality and involvement in community he says:Community and equality are mutually reinforcing… Social capital and economic inequalitymoved in tandem through most of the twentieth century. In terms of the distribution of wealth and income, America in the 1950s and 1960s was more egalitarian than it had beenin more than a century… [T]hose same decades were also the high point of socialconnectedness and civic engagement. Record highs in equality and social capital coincided.Conversely, the last third of the twentieth century was a time of growing inequality anderoding social capital… The timing of the two trends is striking: somewhere around 1965-70 America reversed course and started becoming both less just economically and less wellconnected socially and politically. (Putnam 2000 pp 359)In addition to affecting levels of trust and civic engagement, inequality in society has also shown tobe highly correlated with crime rates.Most studies looking into the relationship between crime and inequality have concentrated on homicides - since homicides are almost identically defined across all nations and jurisdictions. There have been over fifty studies showing tendencies forviolence to be more common in societies where income differences are larger. Research has beenconducted comparing developed countries with undeveloped countries, as well as studying areaswithin countries. Daly et al. 2001.
 found that among U.S States and Canadian Provinces there is a tenfold difference in homicide rates related to inequality. They estimated that about half of allvariation in homicide rates can be accounted for by differences in the amount of inequality in eachprovince or state. Fajnzylber et al. (2002) found a similar relationship worldwide. Amongcomments in academic literature on the relationship between homicides and inequality are:
 
The most consistent finding in cross-national research on homicides has been that of apositive association between income inequality and homicides. (Neapolitan 1999 pp 260)
 
Economic inequality is positively and significantly related to rates of homicide despite anextensive list of conceptually relevant controls. The fact that this relationship is found withthe most recent data and using a different measure of economic inequality from previousresearch, suggests that the finding is very robust. (Lee and Bankston 1999 pp 50)
 
Population health
 Income inequality and mortality in 282 metropolitan areas of the United States.Mortality is strongly associated with higher income inequality, but, within levels of income inequality, not withper capita income.Recently, there has been increasing interest from epidemiologists on the subject of economic inequality and its relation to the health of populations.There is a very robust correlation between socioeconomic status and health. This correlation suggests that it is not only the poor who tend tobe sick when everyone else is healthy, but that there is a continual gradient, from the top to thebottom of the socio-economic ladder, relating status to health. This phenomenon is often calledthe"SES Gradient". Lower socioeconomic status has been linked to chronic stress
 
, rheumatoid arthritis,certain types of  cancer,and premature aging.  There is debate regarding the cause of the SES Gradient. A number of researchers (A. Leigh, C.Jencks, A. Clarkwest - see also Russell Sage working papers) see a definite link between economicstatus and mortality due to the greater economic resources of the wealthy, but they find littlecorrelation due to social status differences. Other researchers such as Richard Wilkinson
 
,J. Lynch, and G.A. Kaplan have found thatsocioeconomic status strongly affects health even when controlling for economic resources andaccess to health care. Most famous for linking social status with health are the Whitehall studies - a series of studies conducted on civil servants in London.The studies found that although all civil servants in England have the same access to health care, there was a strong correlation betweensocial status and health. The studies found that this relationship remained strong even whencontrolling for health-affecting habits such as exercise, smoking and drinking.Furthermore, it has been noted that no amount of medical attention will help decrease the likelihood of someonegetting type 2 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis - yet both are more common among populations

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