The Equality Trust

The Equality Trust was established by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book ‘The Spirit Level’ which presents their research into the influence of inequality in developed countries.

The Trust aims to disseminate this information through a programme of public and political education designed to achieve:

  • a widespread understanding of the harm caused by income inequality
  • public support for policy measures to reduce income inequality
  • the political commitment to implementing such policy measures

The Trust is non-partisan and calls on all political parties to prioritise this issue.

Why More Equality?

The authors thirty years research shows that in rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. They produced an index of health and social problems, amalgamating comparable data collected by agencies within 21 developed countries in Europe, the USA and Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The index combined scores for 10 factors:

Life Expectancy                  Maths and literacy

Infant mortality                 Homicides

Obesity                             Imprisonment

Mental illness & Addiction   Trust

Teenage pregnancy            Social mobility

More equal countries performed well for each of these indicators. With the combined results plotted against income equality, countries with higher levels of equality performed better than countries with lower levels of equality. The most equal countries were Japan in first place followed by the Scandinavian countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.    The countries with the highest scores for the above factors were Japan, again in first place, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands [9th for equality] and Switzerland [13th for equality] Finland and Denmark had slipped to 6th and 9th place respectively.

At the other end of the table, the least equal country was the USA followed by Portugal, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. For the combined index, the USA was again on the bottom followed by Portugal, the UK, Greece, and New Zealand. Considering each of these 10 factors separately and plotting each against equality, the USA, the most powerful and therefore presumed by some to be the most successful country in the world, was consistently on the bottom, with Japan at the top. The UK closely followed the USA.

The Authors have shown that more economic growth in developed countries will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being across rich countries. People doing similar jobs in Japan and Scandinavia, generally earn less that they would in the USA, but they have a higher sense of well-being.

With greater equality in the UK, the authors conclude that we would be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

– Murder rates would halve
– Mental illness would reduce by two thirds
– Obesity would halve
– Imprisonment would reduce by 80%
– Teen births would reduce by 80%
– Levels of trust would increase by 85%

Not just poor people do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it’s true that the poorest would gain the most.

These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.

For more information, resources and up to date news, visit the Trust website:

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

Or, read ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, published by Penguin Books.

It should be noted the policies of the ConDem coalition would lead to an increase in inequality, with the cuts hitting the least well of and the big business sector resuming bonus business as usual. Performance of the UK in the above 10 indicators, can be expected to decline. 

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