The Spirit Level

The Spirit Level

Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

Book - 2009
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Everyone knows that the poor in rich societies are more likely to have shorter, less healthy, lives, to do less well at school and to end up on the wrong side of the law. But The Spirit Level goes further than this, to demonstrate for the first time that a whole range of social problems - from poor health to educational failure, from mental illness to obesity, from drug addition to violence, from teenage births to the weakening of community life - share one overwhelming feature- they are all several times more common in more unequal societies. The evidence that bigger income differences create more problems is conclusive. And rather than affecting just the poor, inequality reduces the quality of life for everyone in less equal.

This groundbreaking work book, based on 30 years research by two of the UK's leading social epidemiologists, provides a powerful and fascinating new perspective on the social failings of rich societies. In light of their findings government policy will need serious rethinking.

Philip Birch, Assistant Editor, on The Spirit Level -

'This is one of the most interesting and important books I have ever read. It is driven by a simple idea- that inequality is the root cause of all societies' ills. It doesn't matter if the average level of income is very low or very high, it is the gap between rich and poor that is important. It is why, when polled, more Indonesians, Vietnamese, Finnish and Japanese will claim to be more happy than Brits and Americans. And it isn't just the poorest in the most unequal societies that suffer but the richest too. In London on the one hand we hear regularly about teenagers from poorer communities stabbing each other, but on the other more and more apparently successful, university educated, richer young people suffer from anxiety, depression and are open to casual drug use than ever before. Violence, crime, low educational achievement, poor health; and status anxiety and the misery of having too much money and too much choice go hand in hand, because of inequality. This is not necessarily a new idea but it is proved here for the first time. The graphs are quite remarkable.'

Publisher: London : Allen Lane, c2009
ISBN: 9781846140396
Branch Call Number: 305 WIL 2009
Characteristics: xvii, 330 p. : ill. ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Pickett, Kate


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Jan 19, 2013

If you read this book the also pick up The Spirit Level Delusion Fact-checking the Left's New Theory of Everything By Snowdon, Christopher It's an intelligent dissection of the methods and arguments used in Spirit Level. One interesting one is that they cherry pick countries that they include. If the include Singapore and Hong Kong, countries with high levels of inequality, many of the results in Spirit Level would be quite the opposite. Spirit Level is good for a reading list on how to lie with statistics.

Mar 27, 2012

For more info you might like to go to their website: or watch the TED talk

Dec 13, 2010

Not difficult to read - plenty of graphs and specific examples - but challenging in concept. All politicans should read this.

Aug 10, 2010

This book should be required reading for anyone interested in public policy or politics. Although it is a dry read and there are many graphs which support the main message it is well written and engaging. It gives you a lot to think about.

Dec 01, 2009

A useful, thought-provoking book.

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