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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

“Income inequality thesis” revisited

16 May 2016

Speaker: Dr Ioana van Deurzen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Sociology, Tilburg University

“Income inequality thesis” revisited

The focus of the presentation is the so called “income inequality thesis”, i.e., the idea that living in countries with high income inequality is detrimental for health and well-being. The implication of this thesis is that by decreasing the level of inequalities in income, societies would be more “successful”, in other words, their inhabitants would have better physical and mental health. Such straightforward solution to improve population health is, no doubt, compelling and it parallels the concerns surrounding the increasing inequalities that took place in the high income countries. But is this the case? Can inequality “get under the skin” and make people sick? Is this effect the same for everyone? How does this work, what are the mechanisms behind? And, finally, can individuals do something to protect themselves? These questions were at the basis of my doctoral research, and in this presentation I will discuss results from two completed studies. In one study, I evaluated and tested some of the mechanisms that were proposed in the literature to explain the empirical relationship between higher inequality and worse mental health. In the second study, I developed and tested an additional mechanism not previously presented in the literature, i.e., a path through the level of societal corruption.