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Is Economic Inequality Really a Problem? A Review of the Arguments

E. Wesley F. Peterson ()
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E. Wesley F. Peterson: Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0922, USA

Social Sciences, 2017, vol. 6, issue 4, 1-25

Abstract: Increasing economic inequality in recent years has triggered an outpouring of analysis and reflection on the causes and consequences of these changes. Several commentators have argued that inequality does not merit all the attention it has been receiving noting that the focus on inequality can divert attention from the real problem, which is poverty. This article reviews the arguments for and against this position, highlighting the effects of economic inequality on economic growth and efficiency, politics and democracy, individual behaviors that result in poor health outcomes and social disruption, social cohesion, and environmental degradation. Poverty is, of course, a very important social issue but this review of the arguments about inequality shows that economic inequality in itself is also an important social ill that should be addressed.

Keywords: income inequality; wealth inequality; economic growth; democracy; health; social cohesion; environmental degradation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A B N P Y80 Z00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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