Is Inequality the Problem? - DSPI Trinity Term Seminar Series 5
A now-common view holds that reduction of income inequality should be a top policy priority, because inequality has harmful consequences for a host of things we care about. What does the experience of the rich democratic nations in the era of high and rising income inequality from 1979 to 2019 tell us? The evidence offers little support for the inequality-is-harmful hypothesis. Reducing income inequality isn’t likely to significantly boost living standards for the poor or the middle class. It probably won’t do much to equalize political influence. It’s unlikely to help much with equalization of economic opportunity. It probably won’t make much difference for our health. And it’s doubtful that it will facilitate a rise in happiness. We’re likely to make more progress in improving living standards, democracy, opportunity, health, and happiness by addressing them directly, rather than by pursuing these indirectly via a reduction in income (or wealth) inequality.

Lane Kenworthy is professor of sociology and Yankelovich Chair in Social Thought at the University of California-San Diego. He studies the causes and consequences of living standards, capabilities, poverty, inequality, mobility, employment, economic growth, social policy, taxes, public opinion, politics, and more in the United States and other rich longstanding-democratic countries. His books include The Good Society (online), Would Democratic Socialism Be Better? (2022), Social Democratic Capitalism (2020), How Big Should Our Government Be? (2016), Social Democratic America (2014), Progress for the Poor (2011), Jobs with Equality (2008), Egalitarian Capitalism (2004), and In Search of National Economic Success (1995).

Booking is required for people outside of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI). DSPI members do not need to register
Date: 23 May 2024, 16:00 (Thursday, 5th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: 32-42 Wellington Square (Barnett House), 32-42 Wellington Square OX1 2ER
Speaker: Professor Lane Kenworthy (University of California San Diego)
Organising department: Department of Social Policy and Intervention
Part of: DSPI Hilary Term 2024 Seminar Series
Booking required?: Not required
Booking url:
Cost: Free
Audience: Members of the University only
Editors: Ngwarirai Mandrup, Faith Inch