Worlds Apart

Macroeconomic policies, financial globalization, and changes in labor market institutions have exacerbated inequality in recent decades, not only in income and wealth, but also in access to education, healthcare, social protection, as well as in political participation and influence. Even within countries experiencing rapid economic growth, an array of factors, exacerbated by tremendous demographic changes, has conspired to transmit inequality of knowledge, social responsibility, and life chances from one generation to the next.

As surveyed in the United Nations report The Inequality Predicament, few countries, rich or poor, have proved immune to the global trend of rising inequality, or to its consequences for education, health, and social welfare.

Of course, there is no simple causal relationship linking poverty and inequality to violence. But inequality and a sense of deprivation do contribute to resentment and social instability, threatening security. Excluded and facing bleak life prospects, young people, in particular, often experience anomie and may turn to anti-social behavior, including violence.

Nor is there a simple explanation of what causes poverty. Clearly, however, poverty arises from various complex conditions, and its amelioration requires a multidimensional approach. It is hard to imagine, for example, how to “make poverty history” without also generating enough decent work, educational opportunities, and healthcare for all.