The Impact of Wealth Distribution on Health and Social Well Being
The concentration of wealth is at a historical high in the U.S. while the number of impoverished people increases. About 50 million Americans have been going without health insurance and millions have lost jobs or their homes. Among industrialized countries, only the city of Singapore, which is a separate country, has greater income inequality than the United States.
Harvard Business School Associate Professor Michael Norton and James B. Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, recently completeted a study that compared the actual, perceived, and preferred income distribution by quintile in the U.S. Although American people think there is too much inequality in wealth in the U.S., they don't actually realize the degree to which wealth is concentrated.
Does income distribution make a difference? British epidemiologists Richard Wilkenson and Kate Pickett reveal the widespread effects of a country's income inequality in their book, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Comparing industrialized nations and states in the U.S., Wilkenson and Pickett found that inequality of wealth had a greater effect on citizens well being than the relative wealth of first world nations. Greater income inequality is related to a wide range of harmful effects including many related to health such as life expectancy, obesity, drug use, and mental illness, and to social measures such as violence, bullying and conflict in schools, rates of imprisonment, happiness, levels of trust, educational performance, children's well being, and teen pregnancy.
As a nation and state, we can do better. Both our own states and nation as well as other nations have many examples of success from which to draw.