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The spirit level: Why equality is better for everyone

Wilkinson and Pickett contend that people in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health and are more socially mobile.  In this book they present the relationship between income inequality and a range of health and social issues, using data from the 23 richest countries and 50 US states. Using 11 measures of health and social development—among them physical and mental health, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, and child wellbeing—the authors use scatter graphs to demonstrate that people are significantly worse off in more unequal countries or states. Importantly, the observed relationship is with economic inequality, not total wealth or average per-capita income.

Wilkinson and Pickett argue that income inequality affects everyone in society. Their analysis shows that people at all levels of the social hierarchy do better in more equal societies.

The Spirit Level was published in conjunction with the launch of the Equality Trust website which conducts campaigns based on the authors’ research. The website hosts videos and presentations designed to educated and mobilize support for efforts aimed at reducing economic inequality.
The book was published in the UK under the title The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, and in the US under the title The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. It won the 2010 Bristol Festival of Ideas Prize, and the 2011 Political Studies Association Publication of the Year Award.

Use this resource to:

  • Explore an approach for assessing income inequality
  • Access data on the relationship between income inequality and social outcomes
  • Review potential policy options for reducing income inequality

Wilkinson, R.G., & Pickett, K. (2009). The spirit level: Why equality is better for everyone. London: Penguin Books.

Tags: Socioeconomic status, Book