Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Centre for Criminal Justice Studies Annual Lecture 2010: 'The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better For Everyone'

17 June 2010 | 5.30pm | Conference
Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds

Kate Pickett is Professor of Epidemiology at the University of York and a National Institute for Health Research Career Scientist. She studied physical anthropology at Cambridge, nutritional sciences at Cornell and epidemiology at Berkeley before spending four years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. Kate co-wrote 'The Spirit Level' with Richard Wilkinson and is a co-founder of The Equality Trust.

Societies which tend to do well on a variety of measures of social, physical and psychological well-being tend to do well on all of them. The key is the amount of inequality in each society. The more unequal a society is, the more ill health and social problems it has. Inequality has always been regarded as divisive and socially corrosive. The data show that even small differences in the amount of inequality matter. Material inequality serves as a determinant of the scale and importance of social stratification. It increases status insecurity and competition and the prevalence of all the problems associated with relative deprivation. Particularly important are effects mediated by social status, friendship and early childhood experience.

However, although the amount of inequality has its greatest effect on rates of problems among the poor, its influence extends to almost all income groups: too much inequality reduces levels of well-being among the vast majority of the population. In this lecture, Professor Pickett will relate issues of inequality to questions of trust, social capital, crime and punishment.

Abstract:

Comparing life expectancy, mental health, levels of violence, teenage birth rates, drug abuse, child wellbeing, obesity rates, levels of trust, the educational performance of school children, or the strength of community life among rich countries, it is clear that societies which tend to do well on one of these measures tend to do well on all of them, and the ones which do badly, do badly on all of them. What accounts for the difference? The key is the amount of inequality in each society. The picture is consistent whether we compare rich countries or the 50 states of the USA. The more unequal a society is, the more ill health and social problems it has.

Inequality has always been regarded as divisive and socially corrosive. The data show that even small differences in the amount of inequality matter. Material inequality serves as a determinant of the scale and importance of social stratification. It increases status insecurity and competition and the prevalence of all the problems associated with relative deprivation. Particularly important are effects mediated by social status, friendship and early childhood experience. However, although the amount of inequality has its greatest effect on rates of problems among the poor, its influence extends to almost all income groups: too much inequality reduces levels of well-being among the vast majority of the population.

The Annual Lecture will be Chaired by Professor Adam Crawford, Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies.

Professor Susanne Karstedt will offer a brief comment and response on the implications for the comparative study of crime, criminal justice and punishment. Susanne Karstedt is Professor of Criminology at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies in the School of Law, University of Leeds.

The Annual Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

 

Location Details

Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall
University of Leeds
Leeds
LS2 9JT

 

Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall is number 75 on the Campus Map.

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