What is most correlated with human well being including the
reduction of poor health (including obesity, hypertension, mental illness, and
diabetes) and social disfunction (including violent crime, drug use,
educational failure, teenage births and incarceration rates? It turns out that
the answer among nations that have reached a certain level of wealth is that lower income inequality correlates with better outcomes. This
holds among industrialized nations and among the fifty states. This holds not
only for the poor, but surprisingly for the rich as well (perhaps because
societies marked by inequality heighten stress).
These propositions are supported and developed in a new book called The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. The book is reviewed by Daniel Finn in the current issue of Commonweal.