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Study Notes

What explains the divide between rich and poor?

AS, A-Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 5 Jan 2019

The scale and depth of inequalities in income and wealth is one of the most important issues facing policy-makers in many countries across the world.

To what extent does a capitalist system lead to widening inequalities? What role does luck play in determining the final distribution of income? How effective are government interventions designed to change income distribution and reduce the gap between rich and poor?

What explains the stark and persistent divide between rich and poor?

Here are some resources that might be useful in exploring this topic.

You can find the inequality data used in compiling the Human Development Index by clicking here. The latest data covers the years 2000-2017.

More sources of inequality data:

Our World in Data

World Inequality Database

Guardian (Inequality index: where are the world's most unequal countries?)

Tutor2u's collection of study resources on poverty and inequality can be found here - as new resources are added, this collection is automatically updated.

If you want a really strong visual sense of the chasm in incomes within urban environments in a number of developing / emerging countries, then this TED talk by Jonny Miller is stunning.

This is what inequality looks like | Johnny Miller | TEDxJohannesburg

Inequality in the United Kingdom

Here are some organisations that campaign on the issue of poverty and inequality:

The Equality Trust

Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Guardian news articles on poverty

Guardian news articles on inequality

Inequality, poverty and living standards (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

Some other recommended resources:

Thomas Piketty talk on inequality (Harvard, April 2018) - Piketty explains why wealth inequality is challenging, but far from apocalyptic

'UK inequality reduced since 2008'(BBC News, July 2017)

Success and luck - article from the US economist Robert Frank (2017)

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson: ‘Inequality strikes at our health and happiness’(Guardian, September 2018)

Why inequality is set to decline

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