Reading Development

Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo

Understanding the relationship between Poverty and Inequality

In this report we summarise the findings from a series of papers that explore the relationships between poverty measured in various ways and inequalities in people’s incomes. This programme of research was motivated by the question of whether it is possible to separate concerns between poverty and inequality – is it in fact possible to be concerned about poverty but to be indifferent to inequality? As a corollary, does tackling poverty also require policies to reduce inequality? We review the philosophical debate, identifying a number of different standpoints. For some, inequality between people is the prime concern, with poverty one of its consequences. For others, poverty and ensuring that everyone meets some kind of minimum standard is the starting point. Inequality for some from these points of view would be of concern just for instrumental reasons, if in some way it leads to or exacerbates poverty, but not in its own right. In many cases, though, our concerns with poverty and inequality are not mutually exclusive. We can hold that both poverty and inequality are relevant for human deprivation, and that whether you start with a concern for poverty or a concern for inequality, they are both violating human dignity. They can also stand in mutually reinforcing relationships and hinder other social goals. A pluralist approach incorporates different justifications: one can prioritise poverty (as the most important determinant of deprivation, or reflecting human rights or humanitarian concerns) while also allowing that inequality matters, both in itself and instrumentally, because it worsens poverty.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, 13 February 2020 by in Poverty and inequality and tagged , , , .
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