torsdag 2 april 2009

Värdet av jämlikhet: Wilkinson och Pickett

"The findings of those statisticians’ successors—that poor children are more likely to fail at school, poor adults to commit crimes and die young, and so on—are nowadays uncontroversial. And policymakers mostly eschew metaphysics. Instead, they try to break such links by spending to “end child poverty” and by targeting health and education initiatives on the neediest. Yet such attempts are doomed to disappoint, say British social scientists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, because they conceive of each social ill in isolation, rather than treating their shared root cause. Moreover, they misidentify that cause: it is not poverty as such, but inequality.

It is a sweeping claim, yet the evidence, here painstakingly marshalled, is hard to dispute. Within the rich world, where destitution is rare, countries where incomes are more evenly distributed have longer-lived citizens and lower rates of obesity, delinquency, depression and teenage pregnancy than richer countries where wealth is more concentrated. Studies of British civil servants find that senior ones enjoy better health than their immediate subordinates, who in turn do better than those further down the ladder.

And the evidence is that the differences in status cause these “gradients”. Low-caste Indian children do worse on cognitive tests if they must state their identities beforehand. High-status baboons bred in captivity show elevated levels of stress hormones and become ill more often when they are moved to groups where they no longer dominate.

What to do about this sickness caused by other people’s wealth? Swingeing taxes on the rich, or smaller differences in pay in the first place, say the authors, citing Sweden and Japan as instances of the two alternatives. A decade ago even left-wing politicians were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”. Now, as it becomes clearer that some of the rich got that way by theft, the idea that they have also caused injury more subtly will gain a readier hearing."
Economist recenserar boken The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better av Richard Wilkinson och Kate Pickett. "Social Inequality: Always With Us", 26 februari.

Uppdatering 6 maj
Jag citerade 2 april här The Economists recension av Richard Wilkinson och Kate Picketts bok The Spirit Level. Dess centrala tes - att ojämlikhet är dåligt för typ allt och alla - är intressant, så jag är nyfiken på det svenska mottagandet. Här resultat från googling:

Lena Gunnarsson, "Skam och oro: livsfarligt", Flamman 3 juli 2006
Olle Lundberg, "Wilkinson och ojämlikheten"
Katrine Kielos, "Vi blir sjuka av inkomstklyftor", Aftonbladet 10 april 2009
bloggen Politik & Filosofi, "Jämlika samhällen bra för alla"
Enn Kokks blogg, "Lästips: Kind of Blue och Kind of Red"
Bloggen Tankar från vänster, "Inkomstskillnader, rättvisa och 'The spirit level'"

uppdatering 17 februari 2010: vänligt kritiska recensioner av Spirit Level
John Kay i Financial Times 23 mars 2009
Lane Kenworthy 18 januari 2010
Andrew Leigh, "Look at the changes, not at the levels", 14 december 2009

Det handlar mycket om användandet av scatterplots som bevisning, om valen av datakällor och att ett par outliers (USA, Japan inte minst) påverkar resultaten alltför starkt, om problemet att Wilkinson-Picketts scatterplots i i princip alla fall är synkrona (jämförande mellan länder vid en tidpunkt) och inte diakrona (jämförande över tid), och om det problematiska i Wilkinson-Picketts kausalitet med "social stress" som huvudsaklig länk mellan ojämlikhet å ena sidan och dåliga utfall å andra sidan.

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