Why the wealthy matter

Karen Rowlingson and Stephen Mckay

in Wealth and the Wealthy

Published by Policy Press

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9781847423085
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447305620 | DOI:
Why the wealthy matter

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  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility


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The growth in wealth inequality in recent years has sparked a lively debate. Some argue that the wealth owned by the ‘super-rich’, for example, has a positive impact on society through consumption patterns which stimulate the economy, and in providing incentives to work hard. But an increasing body of evidence (often based on cross-national comparative data) shows that inequality has pernicious effects on society, not least in relation to mental health outcomes. There is also discussion about the process by which some people become wealthy and the extent to which this is based partly on luck of birth rather than merit. And finally, there are strong arguments to suggest that the extent of the gap between rich and poor cannot be justified, even if those who accumulate large amounts of wealth did so largely through merit rather than birth. This chapter also reviews public attitudes to whether or not wealth inequality is a problem.

Keywords: distribution of wealth; equal opportunities; public attitudes; super-rich; consumption patterns

Chapter.  12956 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility

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