Inequality Hurts

Avner Offer

in The Challenge of Affluence

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216628
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191696015 | DOI:

Series: The Challenge of Affluence

Inequality Hurts

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This chapter discusses the psychic, economic, and health costs of status complaints of ranking below other people. Status produces losers as well as winners and can be measured in terms of negative distance, called here ‘complaints’. As incomes rose and consumption increased, more income flowed into positional consumption. Status complaints depressed health. Lower down the social scale, lives were shorter, and the risk of illness greater. Inequality is the reason why the United States, the wealthiest economy, scores so poorly on the indicators of physiological well-being. Positional conflict extends into politics, with partisan arguments for distribution from the poor to the rich made stridently and effectively by those at the top. The largest statistical risk factor for personal bankruptcy was the presence of children.

Keywords: positional conflict; health; status; income; inequality; United States

Chapter.  13782 words.  Illustrated.

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