Economic Inequality and Poverty: International Perspectives

Economic Inequality and Poverty: International Perspectives

Economic Inequality and Poverty: International Perspectives

Economic Inequality and Poverty: International Perspectives

Synopsis

This collection focuses on the concepts and measurements of inequality, poverty, the concentration of wealth, and the implications of these issues for social policies. A special feature of this work is the international comparisons of the evidence on economic inequality.

Excerpt

Economic inequality has always been one of the central issues of any social system. From the very earliest times, philosophers have debated the ethics of the coexistence of great wealth and abject poverty, while political analysts have emphasized the linkages between economic affluence and political influence. The central question of the modern discipline of sociology is the analysis of structured social inequality, which is largely derived from differences in command over economic resources. And economists have always claimed that the criteria for economic policy are efficiency and equity. But despite the importance of the issue, vast gaps in our knowledge about economic inequality remain.

In part, these gaps are due to the fact that economists cannot all agree on what the crucial questions about economic inequality really are. For some, the important issue is the differences among all individuals in potential command over goods and services--if society as a whole produces a certain amount of output, how is the total pie sliced up? For some, the situation of the poor is a particularly important dimension of inequality, since there is a long tradition of ethical concern with inequality which stresses the relative well-being of the most disadvantaged members of society. For others, the crucial questions are those which surround the concentration of ownership, wealth and power in capitalist societies. And for still others the social policies which affect inequality command the most interest.

This book of readings touches on all these dimensions of economic inequality. One of the themes running through the chapters is the crucial importance of conceptual and measurement issues to our perception of the nature of aggregate economic inequality, poverty, and the concentration of wealth and social policy. Another theme which pervades these readings is the value of international comparisons of the evidence on economic inequality. If we are to evaluate carefully the theories which seek to explain inequality and poverty or the policies which . . .

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