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27 th January 2010 Lancaster Environment Centre and Royal Geographical Society Seminar University of Lancaster.
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Lancaster Environment Centre and
Royal Geographical Society Seminar
University of Lancaster
Why social inequality persistsDanny DorlingUniversity of SheffieldBased on the book: “Injustice: why social inequality persists”,to be published by Policy Press in April 2010. www.shef.ac.uk/sasi
More than ever before we measure rates of social inequality and draw pictures of its human geography. Few would now dispute that we live in an unequal and unjust world. So what causes this inequality to persist? Within affluent nations inequality is no longer caused by not having enough resources to share, but by unrecognised and unacknowledged beliefs which actually propagate it. See Dorling (2010) for an elaboration of these arguments and further evidence: “Injustice: why social inequality persists”, Policy Press, April. This talk is a summary of that book.
Of all the 25 richest countries in the world, the US and UK rank as 2nd and 4th most unequal respectively when the annual income of the best-off tenth of their population is compared that of the poorest tenth. In descending order of inequality the 10%:10% income ratios are: 17.7 Singapore, 15.9 United States, 15.0 Portugal, 13.8 United Kingdom, 13.4 Israel, 12.5 Australia, 12.5 New Zealand, 11.6 Italy, 10.3 Spain, 10.2 Greece, 9.4 Canada, 9.4 Ireland, 9.2 Netherlands, 9.1 France, 9.0 Switzerland, 8.2 Belgium, 8.1 Denmark, 7.8 Korea (Republic of), 7.3 Slovenia, 6.9 Austria, 6.9 Germany, 6.2 Sweden, 6.1 Norway, 5.6 Finland, and 4.5 Japan.
1.Elitism is efficient;
2. Exclusion is necessary;
3. Prejudice is natural;
4. Greed is good;
5. Despair is inevitable.
In what are now the most unequal of the world’s twenty five richest countries people have come slowly to accept different ways of thinking. Different presumptions about others. Different to those held in the more equitable and average countries. New beliefs have local flavour and antecedents. In Britain, as the five social evils identified by Beveridge at the dawn of the British welfare state are gradually being eradicated (ignorance, want, idleness, squalor and disease), they are being replaced by five new tenets of injustice.
Who we think it is fitting to educate changes over time. When Nelson Mandela was put on trial in 1963 he faced a possible death sentence. In his concluding court statement he defined, as an equality worth fighting for, the right of children to be treated equally in education and for them to be taught that Africans and Europeans were equal and merited equal attention. At that time the South African government spent twelve times as much on educating each European child as on each African child. Lifetime ratios between the extremes in Britain are not dissimilar.
International tests are used today to label children by supposed ‘ability’. The above graph is derived from the OECD (2007). ‘None’ implies possessing no knowledge as far as can be measured. ‘Limited’ implies possessing very limited knowledge. ‘Barely’ stands for barely possessing adequate knowledge in the minds of the assessors. ‘Simple’ means understanding only simple concepts. ‘Effective’ is a little less damning. ‘Developed’ is better again; but only ‘Advanced’ pupils are found to be capable, it is said, of the kind of thinking that might include ‘critical insight’.
Almost no matter how the students had ‘performed’ in the OECD tests, the curves drawn above from the results of those tests would have been bell shaped. When calibrating the results (adjusting the scores before release), it was “…assumed that students have been sampled from a multivariate normal distribution”. OECD (2009, page 145). These educational economists decided upon the ability distribution of children before they began testing them. If you do that, then, even in the Netherlands, every seventh child is, at best, “limited”.
Until 2009 only around one in twenty top prices were awarded to women. Testing humans is almost always to an extent disingenuous. To win a Nobel Prize the key requirements were first to be alive in the right century and then to be of the right sex. Even male mainstream economists know that Albert Einstein, Alan Turing and James Watson were just the inventors of “…discoveries about to happen. If these particular individuals had not found them, others would have made these discoveries instead.”. : Kay, J. (2004, page 258).
In 2009 one glass ceiling was shattered. Over a third of Nobel prizes were awarded to women when usually a twentieth had been. On Monday October the 5th 2009 Elizabeth Blackburn, CarolGreider and Jack Szostak jointly shared the award in medicine. On Tuesday October the 6th the Physics prize when to Charles Kao, Willard Boyle and George Smith. And on Wednesday October the 7th the Chemistry prize went to VenkatramanRamakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and AdaYonath. A third of the prize winners by the third day were women. HertaMüller was awarded the prize in literature on October 8th, yet another, ElinorOstrom, shared the SverigesRiksbank Prize in Economics that was awarded on October 12th and was a huge surprise. No woman had been awarded that prize before. The unsurprising and predicable award was to President Obama, in hope of peace. History provides the measure of what there is to be overcome.
“…the costs of trying to increase educational attainment by a general rise in school expenditure far exceed the economic benefits.”
This is ‘found’ in Denmark because
In full this elitist (but sadly economically conventional claim reads): “This simple calculation shows that the estimated effect of school expenditure on educational attainment is very small, and it indicates that the costs of trying to increase educational attainment by a general rise in school expenditure far exceed the economic benefits. This is especially so since the returns to education in Denmark are low compared to, for example, the US or the UK, because of a very compressed wage structure.” Heinesen, E. and B. K. Graverseny (2005, page 126).
“…the returns to education in Denmark are low compared to, for example, the US or the UK, because of a very compressed wage structure.”
“…with ‘the young’ we should ... push them … until the young children … get the chance to make the most of their God given potential.”
(Tony Blair, 2005).
The same is true if your personal religion isthe kind of science that invokes the fictional“IQ gene”. A more convincing science finds that we are born “plastic”. We inherit the ability not to inherit ability.
If you believe that God or Genes gives differing children differing positions at the starting posts of education; then education, education, education is not about equality, opportunity or outcome. It is about realising that which is largely pre-ordained by ‘the Lord’. See Ball, S. J. (2008, page 12 for Tony Blair’s words in full). Our genes (or the gods if you like) endow us with what is called ‘plasticity’ at birth. We inherit the ability not to inherit ability.
Treat children differently in class bythe colour of their eyes and watch:
There is striking evidence that performance and behaviour in an educational task can be profoundly affected by the way we feel we are seen and judged by others. When “… we expect to be viewed as inferior, our abilities seem to be reduced.” That is enough to explain away the results of the studies of separated ‘identical’ twins.
See Wilkinson, R. and K. Pickett (2009, chapter 8), the work of James Flynn, and the studies of how Afro-Caribbean boys were treated in schools in 1968 in Britain. Combined, these explain later measured differences in test ‘performance’. They do so far better than the ‘general factor’ determining your so called intelligence what eugenists called inherited intelligence or “..the non-committal symbol of ‘g.’” Wells, H. G., J. Huxley and G. P. Wells (1931, page 822, quoting Prof. Charles Spearman).
Elitist thinking not only determines children’s life chances but also has an effect on everything that is seen as decent or acceptable in a society. Where elitist thinking was allowed to grow most strongly, social exclusion became more widespread again. In the UK we tolerate older adult benefits of only £9 a day to live on: exclusion from society. Pauperization.
Social exclusion is the new image of injustice that grew out of the old face, out of general eradication of the bulk of an old social evil, ‘want’; going hungry, wanting for clothes and other basic possessions, warmth and other essentials. But to go back to see the origins of the idea that the poor will always be with us unless ‘we’ control ‘their’ behaviour, look back to the world’s first ever geographical example of a graph used to suggest in-breeding of “the unfit”.
There is a long history to suggesting that geographical concentrations of paupers imply exclusion is ‘naturally’ distributed. The figure above is redrawn from the original (Pearson 1895, Figure 17, plate 13). On the X axis: paupers per ten thousand people; Y axis: frequency of unions reporting each rate. Given what we now know – the graph suggests that despite the structures of the poor laws paupers did move out of poorer areas, but new paupers were constantly being created. Migration, not “in-breeding” segregated rich and poor over time.
If a family is poor by two out of three ways of measuring poverty you can be sure they are badly off. One sixth of households in Britain are this poor. Those who are subjectively poor describe themselves as poor. Those who are necessities poor do not have access to the goods or services deemed necessary to be included in the normal life of society. Low income is the way poverty remains officially measured in the UK (source Bradshaw and Finch, 2003).
People get into debt to avoid their standard of living falling immediately when their incomes fall. Above, the X axis measures income poverty. The Y axis measures adequacy of material goods (necessities). Households tend to circulate anti-clockwise. Source: David Gordon, Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, University of Bristol (http://www.bris.ac.uk/poverty/). Social mobility is lowest where the lengths of these axes are longest.
Decadal growth rates (in GDP)
Poverty as measured through low income or by otherwise being excluded from the spending norms of society rose in Britain and America in the 1970s as the rich sought to maintain high growth in their wealth despite the worldwide slump. The poorest continent and poorer people in richer continents suffered most from the slump: ‘Real growth’ per decade in GDP (%) per person by continent 1955-2001 (drawn above) shows the widening gap. Source: Estimates by Angus Maddison, from versions provided in spreadsheets given in www.worldmapper.org.
The curve only looks ‘normal’ when money is valued multiplicatively (hence the log X axis). The affluent in rich countries excluding themselves from social norms results in ever greater consumption by smaller groups in the rich world that, in turn, causes want to rise elsewhere. It regenerates the old evil of the most basic of wants rises as peasants are made into paupers in the poorest of countries. “Pauperization is now clearly seen by many to be the direct end result of massive economic polarization on a world scale” (Amin, S., 2004).
1. “elitism is efficient”…
2. “exclusion is necessary”…
3. “prejudice is natural”
But remember:Unlike other species human infants have very few of their neural pathways already committed at birth.We are born helpless.
Humans as they grow are able (and have) to adapt to the conditions they find themselves born into. Those human beings born with fixed inherent traits would have been less likely to survive through the rapidly changing environments that they found themselves in over the course of (human) history. Prejudice is not ‘natural’. We evolved to become more flexible. That evolution means we now inherit the ability not to inherit particular abilities. But, simultaneously, none of us are that able. Almost all of us find memorizing 5 digit numbers difficult. Those who don’t usually find much else difficult. Idiosyncracies that others tend to be better at. It is only by working in concert that we do well.
How’s life inthe UK?
Howdid we getto this?
Households’ ability to get by on their income in Britain, 1984-2004. Source: Derived from (ONS, Social Trends, 2006, table 5.15, page 78, mean of 1984, 1994, and 2004 surveys). Finding ‘it difficult to manage’ is a very British euphemism for not managing. Among those doing better than this, almost half the population in Britain describe themselves ‘as only just coping’! So, how did we get to this situation? A lack of political ambition as compared to what politicians have achieved in the majority of affluent countries can be blamed. In most affluent countries people trust others more, are less scared of their neighbours, share their resources out more equitably and are less prejudiced in their opinions of others in their country (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009).
Conservative vote concentration1918-2005
Concentration of Conservative votes, general elections 1918-2005. This graph shows the spatial segregation index for Britain. The index shows the minimum proportion of such voters who would have to be transferred between a fixed set of parliamentary constituencies if each constituency were to have the same national proportion of Conservative voters at each general election. The geographical concentration reflects how people come less to know, to share the views of, their neighbours in other areas. The ‘over-concentration’ of votes since 1997 and not just their low numbers lost the Conservatives power from then until at least 2005, but the influence of their concentrating ‘geographical block’ affected all politics. Left wing politicians feared the right-wing “middle-Britain”.
As a result of what first became politically possible and then, apparently, politically impossible, inequality fell and then rose
What the richest 1% get
Share of all income received by the richest 1% in Britain 1918-2009. Lower line is post-tax share. Source, Dorling 2010 updating and relying on Atkinson (2003) and Brewer, Sibieta et al. (2008). Recent bankers bonuses are not included above. If the full extent of the 2008 and 2009 bankers’ bonuses are added, inequality by 2010 would be seen to exceed the 1922 gilded-age maxima. Taxation of the bonuses in 2010 may, for the first time since the 1970s, see this rise in the exclusion of the very richest be curtailed. However, it is not just bankers that constitute the most affluent single percentile of the population.
Inequality in health – premature mortality
In more unequal times, and in the aftermath of the shock of mass unemployment, more people in poorer areas die young as compared to other times and places. The prospects of the wealthy also move away from those of the average. The line marked by white squares shows how much lower the age-sex standardized under age 65 mortality rate of the best-off 10% by area is as compared to the average. The line marked by dark diamonds shows how much higher that of the worst-off 30% is than the average. (Source Dorling and Thomas 2009, derived from Table 4.3 with interpolation between five year rates in some circumstances).
Best and worse off area - differences from average
1. “elitism is efficient”…
2. “exclusion is necessary”…
3. “prejudice is natural”
4. Greed is good! (still!!)
It is still quietly being claimed that ultimately, “greed is good’” even by some of those who reported from outside of collapsing banks. As the BBC correspondent Robert Preston wrote, in 2008, in support still of the orthodox economic model, the mantra remains “greed is good”: Preston, R. (2008, page 336). We sustain injustice while we still think that we have to rely on the trickle-down attributed to the ‘wealth-generation’ that is assumed to be a by-product of the greed of a few in the elite. This occurs while millions of others are excluded from social norms and presumed to be unable to generate wealth themselves.
We tolerate this:
It is unjust that in a country full of cars so many parents of the poorest young children have to walk. There are clearly enough cars for every household that needs a car to have a car. Around 7% of ‘spare’ cars are owned by single adults who cannot physically drive more than one at a time. Children living with only one adult in their household are double in absolute number, and many more time as likely to be living without a car than are children living with two parents. It is much harder to live without a car if you have children and no other adults to rely on. If you are able bodied and not caring for young children or others who cannot walk far and you live in a city then in an equitable country public transport works better than driving.
…because of greed
Debt in the USA
Outstanding consumer debt as a proportion of disposable income, USA 1975-2005.The debt was needed to “keep up with the Joneses” and to keep living away from those you increasingly fear if you live in a more unequal affluent country. The bars show the ratio of debt to annual disposable income with axis to the right. The line shows the percentage change in that ratio over the coming five years (with axis to the left). Disposable income is the income after paying taxes. Derived from: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Flows of Funds, Accounts of the United States, Historical Series and Annual Flows and Outstandings, Fourth Quarter 2005 (Foster 2006).
Poverty rate by NOx emission and ambient air quality for 10,444 British wards in 1999. When you drive a car (to let you live further from the poor but still get to work) it is not just you who suffers inconvenience. It is people living in those parts of inner cities which are poorest, where they are least likely to own cars, who breathe in the most air pollution from the exhausts of the cars of those who drive past their homes (graph from Mitchell and Dorling 2003). Note: low emitting and polluting quintiles are labelled 1, the highest are labelled 5. The proportion living in poverty is derived from breadline surveys.
Social security and taxation prosecutions, Australia, counts, 1989-2003 Source: Redrawn from figures originally appearing as a graph in the Journal of Social Policy, and in a presentation by Greg Marston (2007). Much the same could be drawn for Britain except that social security fraud has been falling in recent years while tax avoidance/evasion has been rising greatly (Horton and Gregory, 2009, page 211). Widespread greed makes us progressively care more for ourselves and our immediate gratification and more suspicious of others and other types of planning.
Debt payments as % of disposable income, United States, 1980-2008 One persons’ greed pollutes all others’ lives, raises house prices for them and sees less spent on social housing, further congests their roads, reduces educational spending for the many in favour of a few, sees health care being sold on a private market rather than allocated according to need, and even pollutes the thinking of society as a whole. The graph above is drawn from data provided by the Federal Reserve Board on required debt payments on mortgage and consumer debt, automobile lease payments, rental payments, insurance, and property tax payments (Foster 2006 gives data source).
personal income in the USA spent on interest and rent
1. “elitism is efficient”…
2. “exclusion is necessary”…
3. “prejudice is natural”
4. Greed is good!
Despair is the final injustice of the five new faces of inequality, mutating from the old social evil of widespread physical disease. Health services now exist that effectively treat and contain most physical disease in affluent countries. However, while most physical maladies are now well treated with high-quality care in all but the most unequal of rich countries, mental illness has been measured and found to rising across the rich world. Almost all of that rise is due to the fastest increases in measured rates of depression and anxiety rising found to be within the most economically unequal of affluent nations.
Reports from trials
Girls assessed in North America as depressed by around age 15
Adolescent girls assessed as depressed, %, North America, 1984-2001. In this graph circle size is drawn proportionate to clinical trail size. Source: Reanalysis of (Costello, Erkanli et al. 2006) The data shown above are for those studies where the children lived in the United States, the U. S. territory of Puerto Rico, or Canada. The same trend is not found in more equitable affluent nations, but is found in data drawn from Britain and among adults as well as children. One in three families in Britain now live with a family member suffering from poor mental health. This is most often depression or anxiety.
The rate of prescribing antidepressants by the NHS in Scotland
Prescriptions per day per 1000 people, mainly of SSRIs (such as Prozac), 1992-2006. Across the whole of Scotland prescription of antidepressants rose over the course of the 1997 to 2005 period to include almost a tenth of the population regularly being dosed up (far more in parts of Glasgow). All this before the summer of 2007, the crash of 2008, and the gloom of 2009. Source: NHS (2007, Table 1.1, page 12). Measuring: Defined Daily Doses per 1,000 people aged 15+. Note: The National Health Service uses financial years when reporting on prescribing rates. Possibly because costs are still mainly counted in terms of money rather than human misery?
Men dying per woman by age and birth cohort
Male/female mortality ratio by age in the rich world (1850–1999). Although higher rates of anxiety and depression are recorded for women than men, it is men who suffer the bulk of the excess premature mortality that now accompanies perceived economic failure and particularly age cohorts entering the labour market at the wrong time. Source: original figure given in Rigby and Dorling (2007), sample size 1 billion people. Note: Each line refers to the cohort born in the decade it is labelled by. The X axis gives ages. The Y axis gives how many more times a man of that age born in that decade is likely to die in a year as compared to a women living in the same set of countries born at the same time and of the same age.
Home Loans USA1977-2009
And $ billions
United States mortgage debt (% change and $bn) 1977-2008. All was very far from good at the height of the boom, but there is now much more to be fearful of. Right hand axis, net $billion additional borrowed in year shown by the bars in the graph. Left hand axis: % change in that amount. Final percentage change unknown but to be based on a denominator of ‘just’ -$46bn (the only negative bar). It is show plummeting down off the scale. Bar and line for 2009 figures are included above as known by Q1 2010. Source: United States Federal Reserve (Debt growth, borrowing and debt outstanding tables).
In 1934 as a result of the 1929 crash, special areas were created in an Act of parliament. Money was moved north. In 2010 money is being moved south from regeneration schemes and area initiative to help fund various bail-outs.
There is a North-South / West-East Divide in who is carrying most of the cost. The Audit Commission published figures during 2009 showing how budgets in the North were being cut to fund the housing market bail-out in the South in a report aptly titled “when it comes to the crunch”. The divide shown above is the social, economic and political divide in England. Below the line people live about a year more on average; identical houses cost much more, people in similar situations are more likely to vote Conservative than above the line, and much more besides. For a more detailed description of the line and exactly where it is estimated to run see: www.sasi.group.shef.ac.uk/maps/nsdivide
Before you ask what is to be done, you have to decide what is wrong that you currently may condone.
In becoming a grossly unequal society it is usually clear thinking that is among the first casualties of new levels of ‘normal’ inequality
“Perhaps the most serious problem created by growing inequality is that it facilitates the reproduction of the politics and ideology of inequality.” (Irvin, 2008) Such politics sees inequality rise as in recession it is the low skilled who are laid off first and in growth and those with what are seen as high skills who benefit most from ‘competition’ (Kelsey, 1997). The mantra that “greed is still good” is played to the rhythm of “there is no alternative” sung to the tune that “massive cuts demonstrate economic responsibility”.
You can only do that which you come to believe is possible, acceptable and desirable.
First you need to know. For instance:
More people aged 5 to 25 are killed by cars than in any other way in the UK.
So 20mph speed limit in residential areas should be a key public health policy.
Thoughts and memories can be made foggy by living for too long under too much inequality. What was seen clearly as injustice began to be excused as inevitable. Unless you look around at most of the rest of the rich world for alternatives, and at all of the rest of the world for what happens when you are so mistaken. Can we aim to only be as unequal as the average OECD country. Is that too much of an aspiration?
In affluent countries with elitist education all children do worse at school. Solutions:
Ensure the nearest school to every child is funded by need, not just numbers.
Introduce free higher education for those who attend their nearest university.
Fund education from a redistribution of monies from the wealthy among the old, not by putting the young into debt.
If all this is obviously just, sensible and fair then why is it not done? It is not done because of what people in the most unequal of affluent nations have come to believe and have been taught. Far too many believe that they themselves are amongst the most able tiny fraction, or that their children are the brightest. At the extremes over half belief they are in the top tenth by favours measures. In beliefs such as this we have become more stupid than we once were. Slow down, stop it, what is in your interest is what is also in others’ interest.
In an affluent country we choose the rate of poverty we are prepared to live with.
We do this by deciding that a few people can be paid very highly and tax them very low.
We do this by deciding that many others should receive minimal benefits.
Most people in most affluent countries of the world made better choices.
We could collectively decide that there are limits to what the highest paid can be paid. Those who run large institutions. It would then be easier to encourage them to keep the pay of others below their pay. What it would be socially acceptable to receive in income would change. This is no utopia. It is normality where most people live in most affluent nations. But getting back to normality is difficult when you have become addicted to models of competition. Do all this and it is possible to imagine having safety nets, benefit levels, that most people would be prepared to rely on.
Mass idleness cannot be reduced without a reduction in prejudice.
The ideal of more than 80% of working age adults being paid for their labour is an ideal that puts markets above all else and sees caring for others only of value when done in the market.
Given options most people would rarely be idle by choice.
Why are we trying to get richer? We can now produce far more than we need to consume and enough to sell overseas to fund more than it is safe for us to consume. We are living in the first generation where there are enough material goods for everyone's needs in the UK. They are just badly shared out. What we also lack is freedom to choose what we do with our time. Most people in work worked far fewer hours one, two or three decades ago. Far fewer were unemployed, sick, or otherwise not economically active of working age then also. Paid work can be better shared out. Unpaid work can be better valued. Again this is not utopia. It is just normality in most other places as nominally rich as we are.
Almost everyone could be made better-off if they were not sold (and did not buy) the story that to do well you must have more than others.
Running more than one car is an expense worth avoiding. Owning more than one home is not necessary. Private swimming pools are not the luxury they tell you.
If the very rich really did have the broadest smile on their faces every minute of every waking hour then perhaps it would be worth trying so hard to join them and do others down on the way. Celebrity magazines and carefully edited television presents an image of people smiling far more often than is humanly positive given cramp and the limits of our facial muscles. Wealth brings fear as well as security. It breeds mistrust within affluent families and a distain for others. How else do you excuse your wealth if you are not someone special? The new squalor of our times is greed. It is not an easy habit to kick.
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Wilkinson, R. and K. Pickett (2009). The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. London, Allen Lane. (chapter 8).
Can we aim to only be as unequal
as the average OECD country?
Is that too much of an aspiration?
Credits – Slides by Benjamin Hennig