Social Cohesion, the Trouble with Income Inequality

Event Description

Levels of domestic unrest across the world are by some measures 4-fold what they have been for the last 50 years. In response public policy, political commentary, and corporate reactions alike have focused on narratives of inequality. It is inequality that is blamed for the rise of populism, the backlash against globalization, and popular revisionism seeking to undermine political systems of every form.

What holds back even further action on inequality might be only the long-standing worry about the leaky-bucket tradeoff between equality and efficiency.

But what if the culprit is not inequality?

This discussion presents empirical evidence on inequality that suggests even as inequality rises, the well-being of those at the bottom of the income distribution continues to improve. The talk presents specific national case studies both in the West and in Asia and shows that inequality is no barrier – outside of a zero-sum world- to the poorer members of society continuing to assert ever-greater control of their own destiny. Ultimately, it is this last that should matter to those who care about the well-being of the poor.

But if inequality is not a sufficient statistic, what then ails society? This talk argues that it is instead patterns of income mobility, media narrative, and the psychological basis of identity politics that need to be re-examined as potentially the more likely factors underlying the great social risks of our time.

Topics Covered

  • A review of existing inequalities across East and West
  • Addressing the link between income inequality and social cohesion
  • Empirical evidence of why current perceptions on inequality are distorted
  • Highlighting the root causes of social degradation

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