Voices from Eurasia

You may ask yourself, how did I get here? Let’s #TalkInequality


Just how bad is global inequality today?

Upon the launch of UNDP’s Humanity Divided report last year, Helen Clark noted that the richest eight per cent of the world’s population earns half of the world’s total income. She continued:

Not only do 1.2 billion people continue to live on under US $1.25 dollars a day, but inequalities in income and wealth are often compounded by inequalities in access to power, and disparities in health and education.


Reports like these beckon questions. They also demand answers.

●     How did we arrive at this new polarized age and how divided are we in Europe and Central Asia?
●     How might we sustain our development achievements with prosperity for all?
●     How have globalization and technological growth affected wage and earning inequalities?
To these and other questions, I’m excited to invite you to follow our Dialogue on Inequalities, taking place on 21-22 January in Istanbul.
We’ll be joined by keynote speakers from around the region to discuss the threats posed by inequalities – as well as possible ways of addressing them


So, ahead of the conversation, I’ve taken the liberty of prepping a little reading list.

Consider it your virtual library on inequality today:

What’s the big deal about this new Capital book I keep hearing about?

The publication of Thomas Piketty’s, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, made waves in 2014, significantly advancing the discussion of rising inequality around the world.

Matt Yglesias offers a “short guide” to the book, while Paul Krugman takes goes in depth in his review. Dean Baker takes issue with Piketty’s determinism.

Global Inequality: Just how bad is it?

A recent study found that CEO pay in 2013 was up 9 percent over the previous year.

Another by the Institute for Policy Studies found that Wall Street bonuses last year exceeded the earnings of every full-time worker making the federal minimum wage.

Oxfam International asks: What would change if we focused on inequality rather than poverty?

Many assume that governments in emerging economies have chosen to favour growth even at the cost of inequality. In this regard, the Science Magazine focuses on inequality, science, and big data to explore the origins, impact and future of inequality around the world.

undp-rbec-monkeysMonkeying around: Even capuchin monkeys react with anger to unequal distribution of resources

I’m not poor. Why should I care?

“Humanity Divided” found that higher levels of inequality were accompanied by slower overall growth.

World Bank economist Branko Milanovic found that it’s more “fun” to live in more equal societies. A study conducted by Sir Michael Marmot found that high levels of inequality harms the health of both rich and poor.

And UNDP’s own research shows that the developing countries in Europe and Central Asia with the lowest rates of income inequality have also had the greatest successes in reducing poverty.

How do we perceive inequality?

A now-classic study by Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely found that most people preferred Sweden’s much flatter income distribution.

Yale psychologist Paul Bloom wrote about a series of studies that found children have an inherent attraction to what they perceive as fairness.

Even capuchin monkeys have been shown to react with anger to unequal distribution of resources!

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

A number of factors helps explain our spiraling levels of income and wealth inequality.

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, the authors of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, took the bird’s-eye view, connecting income inequality with vast differences in political power.

Dylan Matthews writes that public policy is entirely responsible for the trend and Thomas McGarity linked growing inequality with deregulation. Economic Policy Institute’s Andrew Fieldhouse looked at how changes in the tax code have widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Do we just have to live with it?

Nope. Piketty proposes a global tax on wealth to address the growing divide.

Jason Sattler rounded up five ways to reduce inequality and Peter Edelman, Mark Greenberg, Steve Holt and Harry Holzer argue that expanding tax credits for the working poor with children would go a long way toward reducing inequality.


Have I missed anything?

Let me know! And join the debate: @UNDPEurasia will be livetweeting all next week.

You can tweet your questions to us and using the hashtag #TalkInequality

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