Not enough or not equal enough?

I don’t know an awful lot about poverty or income equality, but I have got more interested of late as the Interrogate Festival has gained momentum at Dartington Hall.

If asked about poverty I would usually think about income, and inequity, between what people have and have not got. I might also think of the impact of poverty, in terms of health factors, quality of life or social needs. One of my favourite people who talks about health, income and statistics is the Swedish Professor of Health, Hans Rosling. You can watch Hans Rosling in a number of TED talks, including The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen:

He is also one of the founders behind GapMinder, a fact tank, a non-profit venture focused on ”Fighting the most devastating myths by building a fact-based world view that everyone understands’. The GapMinder World Map shows the health and wealth for all countries of the world – this is the sort of explanation of poverty I’d usually be familiar with. I’ve embedded it below:

However, back in 2009, The Spirit Level was published that challenged this approach to poverty and equity. It claims that the real challenge is not so much about income equality between countries, but income equality within society.

I’ve been browsing through the book this week and it definitely makes a compelling case, based on really solid evidence. I also came across The Equality Trust, an organisation established by the books authors, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, to progress the evidence based campaign working to reduce income equality to improve quality of life in the UK. The campaign has a relatively simple message behind it:

People in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health and are more socially mobile. Community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower, children do better at school and they are less likely to become teenage parents. When inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower.

If we want to build a better society, it is essential we take action now to reduce the gap between rich and poor. The Equality Trust is working with others to build a social movement for change. We analyse and disseminate the latest research, promote robust evidence-based arguments and support a dynamic network of campaign groups across the country.

If you’d like to know more about the book, check out this overview by puppets!

If you’d like to engage more in the debate you can visit The Equality Trust website, or better still, take a look at the Interrogate Festival which is happening at Dartington later this month – there are still tickets available so you can go along to the festival and join in the debate. There’s an excellent line up including a debate with the authors of the Spirit Level, comedy from Mark Steel, and if you’re more interested in your music then don’t miss Saturday night’s performance from Spiers and Boden, the founders of Bellowhead. It should be a great weekend.

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