Wall Street Protesters Have a Point: Inequality

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Nigel Barber Bio-psychologist; Blogger, Psychology Today’s ‘The Human Beast’ posted 10/20/2011


Occupy Wall Street protesters may have a diffuse agenda for change but they are upset about the same problem — unequal distribution of income that is dragging our society down.

In a land of plenty, such as the U.S., one might reasonably expect that citizens would be happy and healthy, that they might work hard and enjoy social mobility. This is the American Dream. Yet, if a person wanted to realize the American Dream, they might consider doing it in Finland, Sweden, or even Japan. The very worst place for the American Dream is America itself.

This conclusion leaps from the pages of The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (1). Their main point is that high levels of income inequality detract from the quality of life for all residents of a country, even the privileged elite. Inequality is stressful and undermines trust.

Wilkinson and Pickett compiled an index of health an