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Study Notes

4.2.2 Inequality (Edexcel)

Level:
A-Level
Board:
Edexcel

Last updated 6 Oct 2023

This study note for Edexcel covers inequality.

A) Distinction between Wealth and Income Inequality:

  1. Wealth Inequality:
    • Wealth refers to the total value of assets owned by an individual or household, including real estate, investments, savings, and possessions.
    • Wealth inequality measures the unequal distribution of these assets among individuals or households.
    • It reflects disparities in accumulated financial resources and net worth.
  2. Income Inequality:
    • Income represents the flow of money received by individuals or households over a specific period, usually annually.
    • Income inequality measures the uneven distribution of income among individuals or households.
    • It reflects disparities in earnings from wages, salaries, investments, and government transfers.

B) Measurements of Income Inequality:

  1. The Lorenz Curve
    • The Lorenz curve is a graphical representation of income distribution in a population.
    • It plots the cumulative percentage of income received by the lowest to the highest earners.
    • A perfectly equal distribution forms a 45-degree line (line of equality).
    • The greater the deviation of the Lorenz curve from the line of equality, the higher the income inequality.
  2. The Gini Coefficient:
    • The Gini coefficient is a numerical index that quantifies income inequality.
    • It ranges from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality).
    • A higher Gini coefficient indicates greater income inequality.
    • It is calculated using the area between the Lorenz curve and the line of equality.

C) Causes of Income and Wealth Inequality Within and Between Countries:

  1. Within-Country Factors:
    • Education: Disparities in access to quality education can lead to differences in skills and income.
    • Labour Market: Wage differentials based on skills, experience, and demand for certain jobs contribute to income inequality.
    • Wealth Accumulation: Those with access to investment opportunities and assets accumulate more wealth over time.
    • Government Policies: Taxation, social safety nets, and welfare policies can either mitigate or exacerbate inequality.
  2. Between-Country Factors:
    • Globalization: Uneven benefits of globalization, such as outsourcing and offshoring, can widen income disparities between countries.
    • Historical Factors: Colonialism, trade imbalances, and unequal access to resources have left lasting impacts on global wealth distribution.
    • Geopolitical Factors: Conflicts, wars, and political instability can hinder development and exacerbate inequality among nations.

D) Impact of Economic Change and Development on Inequality:

  1. Economic Change:
    • Economic growth can either reduce or exacerbate inequality depending on how it is distributed.
    • Inclusive growth policies that target marginalized groups can reduce income inequality.
  2. Development:
    • Developing countries often experience a Gini coefficient reduction as they progress, but this is not guaranteed.
    • The focus should be on equitable development, including access to education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

E) Significance of Capitalism for Inequality:

  • Capitalism, as an economic system, has both positive and negative impacts on income and wealth inequality:
    • Positive: Capitalism can incentivize innovation, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation, which can benefit society as a whole.
    • Negative: Unregulated capitalism can lead to income and wealth concentration among the elite, increasing inequality.
    • Government interventions and policies play a critical role in shaping how capitalism impacts inequality.

In conclusion, understanding the distinctions between wealth and income inequality, measurement methods, causes at the individual and global levels, the impact of economic change and development, and the significance of capitalism is essential for comprehending the complex issue of inequality within and between countries.

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