Book review; The Impact of Inequality by RG Wilkinson


Active member
Feb 6, 2003
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The Guardian

Saturday July 30, 2005

Inequality kills

What counts is not wealth or poverty, says Polly Toynbee after reading
Richard G Wilkinson's The Impact of Inequality, but your place on the social

The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier
by Richard G Wilkinson
355pp, Routledge, £19.99

Does inequality really matter? The poor have what their grandparents would
think unimaginable luxuries - TVs, telephones and washing machines. So why
should it matter to them if in some unseen stratosphere the gated
kleptocrats on company boards award themselves staggering sums of money?
Does anyone really mind the gap?

That is a reasonable question and it niggles away at those on the left, too.
Equality has gone out of fashion. Social justice under Labour means heaving
the poorest over the poverty threshold and lifting the life chances of
children from lower social classes. Tony Blair said early on that he was not
bothered about wealth, only about abolishing poverty. Talk of inequality
sounds like the old politics of envy. Equality of opportunity, yes, but
equality for its own sake, why?

Here is the answer...

<MOD (Libero)> Once again boys and girls, please don't post up entire articles. Provide a link if the piece is online somewhere and, if you like, summarise the piece. Just cutting and pasting the whole thing is nearly always copyright infringement.
Thanks. </MOD>

Gated kleptocrats! Love it.


Well-known member
Feb 17, 2005
Firstly, I reckon that "excerpt" should be digested a bit further to avoid copyright infringement.
But it is a good article with especial relevance to us, as the gap widens between rich and poor in Ireland. As the book and article indicate, health is where inequality matters most, especially in terms of accessing top-level care.
We see this in Ireland with our two-tier system, which requires a top-up investment from the affluent in order to assure them of even basic services, while those who cannot afford it are left to suffer on waiting lists and trolleys.


Well-known member
Apr 1, 2011
As our own society becomes more and more unequal with the top 10 percent increasing their wealth by circa 12% since 2008 and the bottom 10 percent losing circa 20% of their income what does this book above and latest UK studies teach us.

This nine-chapter book addresses the primary questions of how and why inequality negatively affects individuals and populations. Chapters 2 through 4 describe the patterns of association between inequality and health and social outcomes, underscoring that "differences in inequality as small as those found between different market democracies or different U.S. states produce very substantial social and health effects." Chapter 2 reviews evidence supporting the idea that the quality of social relations is associated with income disparities, and Chapter 3 outlines psychosocial factors that contribute to ill health and premature death, including low social status, poor social affiliations, and negative childhood experiences, all of which can be linked to inequality. The data presented in Chapter 4 build upon previous chapters and strongly indicate that the more unequal a society is, the worse its health: "The pathway runs from inequality, through its effects on social relations and the problems of low social status and family functioning, to its impact on stress and health."
The remaining chapters explain the causal processes responsible for these relationships. In Chapter 5, the author uses violence as an example of a strong correlate of inequality and discusses the contributions of low social status and self-worth. Chapter 6 moves the theme forward and describes the social processes responsible for social distances and distinctions, including discrimination. In Chapter 7, race and gender inequality are examined, revealing among other things an interesting paradox: men appear to be more harmed by male domination than women are. Chapter 8 examines the pathway from the form of social organization (degree of inequality) through stress and coping mechanisms to physiological factors (e.g., cardiovascular, immune) that shape health status. Finally, in Chapter 9, the author frames the problem of inequality and health in terms of ideology and political objectives, revisiting the traditional democratic values: liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Social mobility in Britain is the worst in the Western world and the gap between rich and poor has become ingrained in children as young as three, MPs conclude today.

They quote a study showing that the prospects of half of all children born in the UK can be almost entirely linked to the circumstances of their parents – compared to only 15 per cent of those in Denmark.

Differences are also noticeable at a very young age, with toddlers doing far better in vocabulary tests if they grow up in a more affluent household.
Britain 'has worst social mobility in the Western world' | Mail Online

A statement issued by Occupy London promises a day of action in the capital in protest at financial inequality in the UK:

The income gap between the highest and lowest is growing more quickly in Britain than other economies over the past three decades. Topping the inequalities off, there have been average pay rises for FTSE 100 executives at 43pc, with ‘top’ directors at 49pc, all of whom can use their status to avoid tax.

It is time for these inequalities to stop. This May Day, strike with your union if you have one. Call in sick, take a holiday, don't show up. Join actions and marches in your city, bring your community together and talk about the issues in your area, make some noise. Remember, you are not alone. Together we can make a change.
Debt crisis: Live - Telegraph
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