More Unequal than Others

In India and the US, many forms of social inequality have declined in recent years, but economic inequality has been on the rise. If both countries wish to thrive as democracies, they must find a way to make the rich feel that it is in their best interests to improve conditions for the poor.

BERKELEY – Inequality is on the public’s mind almost everywhere nowadays. Indeed, in the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States, widespread popular movements against rising inequality and elite greed are becoming highly salient issues in looming national elections.

Yet, in both countries, some social inequalities have been on the decline over the last few decades. In India, certain historically disadvantaged groups (particularly among the lower castes) are now politically assertive. The most egregious vestiges of caste discrimination are gradually disappearing. Similarly, in the US, discrimination against women, African-Americans, Latinos, and homosexuals is declining.

These developments reflect a democratic advance in both countries. At the same time, however, the fabric of democracy is being torn apart by a staggering rise in economic inequality.

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