The interview was made in November 2014 and published on Long Term Economy in January 2015

According to several studies (by the European Central Bank, Credit Suiss, The World Top Income Database, Oxfam International), the distributions of wealth and incomes are becoming ever more ‘unequal.’ It is estimated that ‘just 1% of the global population hold 41% of the total global wealth.’ And the estimate has recently been revised upward. Increasing inequality can badly effect the structure of our society and cause extremely negative consequences. Why is inequality such an important issue to face in global political agenda? What are the causes and the consequences of the current upward trend in inequality? What are the countries most affected by increasing inequality? Is it possible to stop this tendency? How? Danny Dorling, author of Inequality and the 1%, and other books on social issues, answered to these and other questions.

Danny is a Professor of Geography at the School of Geography and the Environment of the University of Oxford. He is one on the most important thinkers on social issues. Danny has published with many colleagues more than a dozen books on issues related to social inequalities in Britain and several hundred journal papers. His work concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education and poverty.

Highlights from the interview

  • In the USA the best-off 1% now receive more than 20% of all national income each year … In the Netherlands, the top 1% take less than 7% of all income a year.
  • We can also do much better than simply maximizing GDP growth.
  • Inequality is more than just economics. It is the culture that divides and makes social mobility impossible.
  • When inequalities last reached a maxima (higher than that reached today) in 1913, the years that followed were characterized by war and revolution.
  • Question 1: Good morning Prof. Dorling. You have written several books on the following social issues: economic inequality, housing, health, employment, education, poverty. Among these, in a global perspective, what do you think is the most important challenge to address in order to avoid a severe social breakdown?
    Danny: The greatest challenge is rising inequality because it is currently rising so quickly. You mention in the introduction the quote from Credit Suisse that the richest 1% of people in the world own 41% of all the wealth in the world. That figure has just been updated (in late 2014) and, one year on, it is 48%. Just over 7 more years of that rate of rising inequality and the richest 1% will hold all the wealth in the world. That is impossible so we are clearly living in very unusual and precarious times.

    Question 2: Now let’s focus on ‘inequality.’ We can distinguish two kinds of inequality: a) wealth inequality; b) income inequality. Which of these do you consider more dangerous? Could you give us a brief picture on the phenomenon?
    Danny: The two are related. When income inequality grows wealth inequality later rises. Income is about the flow of money in an economy, wealth is about the stock. In the USA the best-off 1% now receive more than 20% of all national income each year. This is so much that they cannot spend it all and so their wealth rises. That wealth is in turn invested and generates more income that generates more wealth for the tiny group. Many others in the USA are forced into debt, negative wealth, because their shares of national income are too low. Contrast this with the Netherlands, where the top 1% take less than 7% of all income a year leaving far more for the other 99% and so they don’t accumulate as much wealth which is spread far more widely.

    Read the full interview on LtEconomy