Richard Wilkinson, a British researcher specializing in public health, argues at a TED talkthat income inequality has a detrimental affect on society, correlating with high levels of violent crime, teen pregnancy, obesity, and other socioeconomic dysfunctions; by contrast, he claims that equitable societies tend to have more social cohesiveness, better physical and mental health, and an overall high quality of life.
This same argument formed the crux of his 2009 book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, which aimed to detail the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption.” Wilkinson’s argument has polarized analysts, winning many plaudits but also garnering much criticism for his apparent methodological flaws. He presents his data and addresses these critiques at his website, the Equality Trust.
I’ll leave you to decide whether his assertion has any merits. I’ll be reading his book soon, so perhaps I’ll share my own thoughts as to whether it was convincing. Personally, I found the TED talk to be compelling, but I could very well be biased in this regard, given my egalitarian sensibilities. As always, I welcome any opinions, on both this issue and the credibility of the argument.