Category Archives: Inequality

Inequality over the last century…



Oxford economist, Max Roser, has tested the nature of structural income inequality in England and found the arguments as to ‘inevitability’ and ‘the play of market forces’ to be wanting. In his highly detailed and closely argued article, Roser signposts other economic  models, and countries, where political will and economic structures are bent to its defeat.

Max Roser (2015) – ‘Income Inequality’. Published online at Retrieved from: [Online Resource]

Roser makes some interesting and telling observations about inequality, setting his argument, as he does, across a broad swathe of economic data, by time and country.

England is interesting in that income data, defined by social group, or set out in ‘social tables’, goes back a long way. Flawed, is the Roser argument, citing the lack of scientific discipline in Gregory King’s Social Table for 1688.

However, Roser cites Milanovic, Lindert and Williamson (2008) who have graphed longitudinal data in pre-industrial societies, using the Gini Index to measure ‘inequality’ and GDP per capita to measure ‘prosperity’.

(The Gini coefficient – or Gini index – is a measure of the income distribution of a population. It was developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini (1884-1965) and is named after him).

This longitudinal view of inequality, by Roser, incisively demonstrates that it is political and institutional structures which enforce inequality. It is not, he argues, the market or efficiencies of capital which promote inequality as a mechanism for distribution of income. We quote his summation at length…

A lesson that that we can take away from this empirical research is that political forces at work on the national level are possibly important for how incomes are distributed. If there was a universal trend towards more inequality it would be in line with the notion that inequality is determined by global market forces and technological progress where it is very hard (or for other reasons undesirable) to change the forces that lead to higher inequality. Inequality would then be inevitable. The reality of different inequality trends within countries suggests that the institutional and political framework in different countries play a role in shaping inequality of incomes‘. (Roser, 2015)

In his well illustrated and closely argued article, Roser compares and contrasts the data for non-English speaking European countries and Japan. All examined countries reached fairly low levels of income inequality in the 1970’s, with significant increases in inequality returning after that decade. With the exception of Japan, where socio-political institutions press for equality in a way that is not available in the Euro-economic matrix.

See more graph detail here...








…we can see the correlation between increases in the income share of the top 1% and the decrease of the marginal income tax rate since 1960. The graph confirms the hypothesis that in general as tax rates decrease, the income share of the most wealthy citizens increases. The US and the UK are both extreme examples of this happening. France, Germany, Finland, Netherlands and Switzerland all contradict this trend. While the marginal income tax rate on the most wealthy has decreased, the government has implemented other means to decrease income inequality‘. (Roser, 2015)

Ths is economic analysis of a high order, which does not set out to find an answer to a pre-conceived position, rather it uses diverse, broadly sourced data across long time spans to argue for a new mode of thought, to diminish the corruscating effects of inequality.

We are most interested in educational outputs, but see how social justice outcomes and the well-being quotient of so many could also be raised by a new economic mind-set.

interneticon2 (copy) See more of Max Roser and his work here…

Turning the tide - making a difference
Turning the tide – making a difference



Free money for all –
A basic human right?

In the video below, Rutger Bregman as part of a TEDx Maastricht talk, informs us of the validity of a single idea that links Thomas Paine and Milton Friedman.

Bregman argues for the universal dispersion of the basic income, as a human right. His opening argument is based upon the notion of standing on the shoulders of giants. ‘Our forefathers have worked so hard to achieve our level of propserity, we should now be able to give everyone a share of that prosperity…’

He argues that in communities where basic income experiments have been attempted, the outcome can be measured in better educational achievement, lower truancy rates, and higher economic growth. Developing an active, participatory counter to inequality.

In a disenfranchised community, he argues, a basic income frees human capacity…it does not diminish it or whither it out of laziness or lack of engagement in societal progress.

Nixon, in the 1970’s nearly passed legislation that engendered the basic income in the US, arguably at the cost of only 25 per cent of the US Defense Budget. A development now long forgotten in US economic thinking.

The London charitable experiment, cited in the film, to give long term homeless men free money, as an alternative to counselling, police monitoring and other forms of ‘traditional’ support also resulted in a variety of sustainable self help outcomes that was, by conventional critiques of ‘the benefit society’, surprising and enduring.

Bregman argues against the three most often made arguments for a universal ‘citizen wage’. It’s too expensive, all people will stop working and it will never happen, politically. The film highlights both optimism, human nature and the individuals need to make a contribution to society as counters to these narrow objections.

  • The Green Party have argued for the universal wage in their UK manifesto at the last election. Is this an idea that can stand a return to wider national focus?
  • Might this economic reform be the very bedrock of enduring and effective educational reform too?
  • Might the introduction of a universal, non-means tested income prevent the collapse of the middle -class through the unending pressure of inequality?

You can visit the web site and cast a vote for the universal basic income.

Turning the tide - making a difference
Turning the tide – making a difference

Injustice – why social inequality still persists?

Danny Dorling has a new edition of Injustice – Why social inequality still persists available. You can discover this and more of Danny’s work on the pages of PolicyPress at the University of Bristol here.

More here…

‘This fully rewritten and updated edition revisits Dorling’s claim that Beveridge’s five social evils are being replaced by five new tenets of injustice: elitism is efficient; exclusion is necessary; prejudice is natural; greed is good and despair is inevitable. By showing these beliefs are unfounded, Dorling offers hope of a more equal society’.

About the author:

Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford. He is  Honorary President of the Society of Cartographers.

He helped create the website which shows who has most and least in the world, working with Mark Newman,  Anna Barford, Ben Wheeler, John Pritchard, Graham Allsopp and Benjamin Hennig.

Danny and his work can be discovered on his own web pages here.

Professor Dorling was a speaker at our recent RSA conference, The Future of Education in England. Watch this space for an event review and films of our speakers and their contribution to a lively debate and thoughtful deliberation on educational reform.

Remember to visit our Monographia page to see interesting papers and reports which are attuned to our movements aims. Join the debate.

Turning the tide - making a difference
Turning the tide – making a difference

Equality – drivers and context

Inequality in Education (IETT) has a focus on education, as you would expect. Inequality and its consequences stretch across a range of life experiences and outcomes for individuals, including education of course.

Get a copy from Amazon here...
Get a copy from Amazon here…

Looking through our archive recently, we came across the slides used by Tim Stacey of the Equality Trust in a recent talk he gave, which nicely encapsulates and offers insights into the evidence base for the pursuit of equality in society.

Drawing on data from his own TrustThe Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, as well as Miles Corak and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation amongst others. His case highlights well the admixture of issues that emerge for a society which has a core social, economic and educational inequality at its heart.

You can review Tim’s excellent presentation below.




interneticon2 (copy)You can download your own copy of the full pdf here.

IETT is proud to support the work of The Equality Trust.

You can Contact Us here.

Turning the tide - making a difference
Turning the tide – making a difference

The Economics of Inequality

As we travel the country taking our campaign forward we often see a great book, one quarter read, abandoned on the coffee table. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Trans. Arthur Goldhammer).

A master work of economic analysis, which retuns Marxian thought to the high table of discourse, we would argue, but which the average reader might fail to pursue to the end, due to its length and complexity.

pikettyEconomicsofInequalitycoverPic2 (copy)
Piketty’s paper…

Piketty’s framing propositions were developed, it can be argued, in an an earlier paper authored with Emmanuel Saez, in 1995. The Economics of Inequality is a much shorter work than his later magnum opus. (National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 8467. U.S., September 2001)

Recently published as a ‘new’ book by Harvard University Press, The Economics of Inequality ( at 160 pages or so, is a much more digestible read than Capital. It has some newly updated content and tables, although the data used to deliver argument in this new work stops in the mid-nineties of course. (Harvard University Press; July 2015)

View, print or download a copy of the original paper.

In a recent New York Times book review, Inequality as it was viewed in the 90’s, the review article argues that Piketty has achieved something of a volte-face on the 1%, and their limiting effect on the economic distribution of wealth and resources.

…the most important contribution of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” was precisely its suggestion that since then a rising share of after-tax profits in national income has indeed set us on the path back to a rentier society, in which the rich live off inherited wealth’.

The article expounds further that Piketty’s Capital ‘…made a disturbing case that we are well on the way to re-establishing “patrimonial capitalism,” a society dominated by oligarchs who inherit their wealth’.

The weakness in this earlier paper, The Economics of Inequality, the reviewer argues, is that Piketty declares, in his original research with Saez, that ”…progressive taxation seems to have prevented a return to 19th-century rentier society”. We disagree. This shorter paper is still a key piece of analysis on an emerging understanding of inequality even with an anti-rentier argument, with all its concomitant impact on economics, education, property and law.

A better critique, we would argue, is that Piketty has spent another two decades researching and thinking about his core propositions and has tempered his analytical ‘oratory’ accordingly with the publication of Capital.

Do open or download Piketty’s original paper from this page and see if you agree. The paper has some interesting historical analysis on the rise of I.T. professions and their effect on wages. (Even though contemporary analysis would now hold that this view is a ‘paperless office’ proposition, which technology also failed to achieve -Ed ).

interneticon2 (copy)Useful links:  An on-line version of the NYT Book Review here.

Turning the tide - making a difference
Turning the tide – making a difference