Monday, January 28, 2008

Inequality and race

That South Africa counts among the most inequal societies in the world is well-known. To single out race 14 years after democracy as a factor that continues to define inequality is more contentious (see this article in It may have an impact, but there are certainly much larger forces at work that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Rising inequality is a worldwide phenomena.
Inequality is also rising in affluent countries such as the United States and in rapidly developing nations such as China.

For an excellent visual treatment of World development data see GapMinder. Here are some highlights on one of the presentations on World Income Distribution:

  • The richest 20% have 74% of income

  • The poorest 20% have 2% of income

  • In 2000, 1.2 billion people or 19% of world population lived on less then $1 per day

  • In 1970, 1.4 billion or 38% of world population lived on less then $1 per day.

  • In Africa, in 2000, 66% lived on less the $1 per day. This compares to 11% in 1970.
Inequality is persistent and entrenched in the way the world works at this stage. This does not exclude a focus on specific local issues, but does place it in larger context.

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