Economic inequality (also known as the gap between rich and poor, income inequality, wealth disparity, or wealth and income differences) comprises disparities in the distribution of economic assets (wealth) and income within or between populations or individuals. The term typically refers to inequality among individuals and groups within a society, but can also refer to inequality among countries. The issue of economic inequality is related to the ideas of equity, equality of outcome, and equality of opportunity.
Observers differ on both the morality and utility of inequality, whether, and/or how much inequality is necessary in society and how it can be affected. It has been praised as necessary and beneficial, and attacked as a growing social problem. Early studies suggesting that greater equality inhibits growth have been shown to be flawed because they did not account for the many years it can take equality changes to manifest in growth changes, and greater equality has been conclusively shown to cause growth.
Economic inequality varies between societies and historical periods; between economic structures or systems (for example, capitalism or socialism), ongoing or past wars, and differences in individuals' abilities to create wealth are all involved in the creation of economic inequality. Economic inequality can refer to cross sectional descriptions of the income or wealth at any particular period, and to the lifetime income and wealth over longer periods of time. There are various numerical indices for measuring economic inequality. A prominent one is the Gini coefficient, but there are also many other methods.
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Famous quotes containing the words inequality and/or economic:
“However energetically society in general may strive to make all the citizens equal and alike, the personal pride of each individual will always make him try to escape from the common level, and he will form some inequality somewhere to his own profit.”
—Alexis de Tocqueville (18051859)
“Politics at all times lead to bloody wars, and not only politics, but also religions as well as social and economic systems of all times are spattered with blood. Invariably the big ones devoured the little ones, and the little ones the tiny ones.”
—Friedrich Dürrenmatt (19211990)