Inequalities round-up: Jan 2011

In-between a series of longer and more provocative articles, we can just about squeeze in the (roughly monthly) round-up of the latest inequalities research.  This edition: how people inherit jobs as well as money; the legacy of Black-White wealth disparities; rising income volatility around the world; the unfairness of the UK public spending cuts; and why educational inequality is likely to increase.

  • Following-up my post from earlier the week, there’s a nice if inconclusive discussion over at Mark Thoma’s blog about whether US inequality is higher or lower if we consider how the price of goods has changed.
  • Thomas Korpi – co-author of one of my favourite papers of all time on the ‘paradox of redistribution’ – wrote an interesting briefing for the European Trade Union Institute on trends in income volatility around the world. From a quick skim of this, he’s arguing that temporary income fluctuations have risen in several countries, but no-one is quite sure why. This reminds me of Jacob Hacker’s ‘Great Risk Shift’ argument for the US, but I vaguely remember that his findings were contested; I’m not sure if this also holds for the international evidence. But it’s a crucial topic.

If you’re interested in income volatility, then it’s also worth flagging John Hillls and colleagues’ innovative study that looks at week-by-week changes in people’s income. (And I will try and get through a month without referencing John Hills’ research at some point…). Korpi is also presenting alongside Maurizio Franzini at a policy seminar in a couple of weeks, and Maurizio’s paper looks interesting too.

  • Two think-tank pieces on the public spending cuts in the UK caught my eye. Firstly, Sunder Katwala (head of the Fabian Society) showed that fewer and fewer people believe that the cuts are fair. Secondly, Gavin Kelly (head of the Resolution Foundation) showed how the increased tax-free allowance is dwarfed by the other cuts going on around it. As Sunder Katwala argues, it’s precisely this kind of close scrutiny of the cuts that has led to declining support for them over time.
  • On the subject of British social attitudes, there’s been some fuss recently about whether we’re becoming more right-wing. A nice piece of Left Foot Forward shows that this isn’t the case – while sympathy for benefit claimants continues to decline, support for redistribution has gone up in recent years. And the influential think-tank ippr has echoed earlier arguments that a capital receipts tax would be more popular than the current inheritance tax.
  • On the Poverty Law blog, they flag an intriguing article that looks at US Black-White wealth disparities – exploring both its historical causes, and the legal avenues for attacking it.
  • Finally, to move away from an unintended focus on income inequality this month, a couple of pieces on educational inequality in the UK. One of the most contested spending cuts is the abandonment of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), an incentive for poorer kids to stay on at school after 16. The Coalition Government have argued that the policy is inefficient – but this is nicely rebutted over at Left Foot Forward. Another pillar of current education policy is the extension of ‘academy status’ to high-performing schools, giving them greater freedoms (and more money). My colleague Ruth Lupton has a data-focused critique on the RSA blog explaining why this won’t help poorer students.

About Ben Baumberg Geiger

I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) at the University of Kent. I also helped set up the collaborative research blog Inequalities, where I write articles and short blog posts. I have a wide range of research interests, at the moment focusing on disability, the workplace, inequality, deservingness and the future of the benefits system, and the relationship between evidence and policy. You can find out more about me at
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2 Responses to Inequalities round-up: Jan 2011

  1. Wow, Ben Baumberg dropping some serious knowledge.

  2. Pingback: Health Nexus Today / Nexus Santé aujourd'hui » Blog Archive » Quick Headlines from Robyn and Meghan – January 13, 2011

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