Income inequality is changing how we think, live, and die

Why society might be more stable if we had more poverty and less inequality.

Researcher Keith Payne has found something surprising: When people flying coach are forced to walk past the pampered first-class flyers in the front of the plane, the likelihood of some sort of air rage incident rises sharply.

In his 2017 book The Broken Ladder, Payne, a social psychologist at the University of North Carolina, argues that humans are hardwired to notice relative differences. When we’re reminded that we’re poorer or less powerful than others, we become less healthy, more angry, and more politically polarized.

I reached out to Payne because his argument seems to lead to a counterintuitive conclusion: American society would be more be more stable if we had more poverty and less inequality. I reached out to him to see if that’s what he’s come to believe after writing his book.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

Tell me what you think we least understand about the social costs of inequality.

Keith Payne

One big misunderstanding is that when people start talking about inequality, their minds go straight to poverty, but poverty’s only half of the equation. Inequality is about the size of the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It’s obviously important to be concerned about poverty and to alleviate the suffering that accompanies it, but that’s still only half the problem.

Sean Illing

What’s the other half of the problem?

Keith Payne

What people underappreciate is how having extreme inequality driven by the high end of wealth also causes trouble for society and for people’s well-being. Poverty is a related but separate problem. The presence of extreme inequality destabilizes a society in ways that are hard to understand but absolutely devastating.

Sean Illing

Let’s get into that. What sorts of problems spring …read more

Source:: Vox – All

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