Why is the UK on of the most unequal countries in the developed world?

incomeInequalityThe Inequality Trust cites a number of factors which contribute to inequality such as globalisation and technological advancement. Campaigning organisations such as Positive Money point out that inequality is embedded in debt based money creation by the banks, while the New Economics Foundation cites a dysfunctional financial services sector that invests in complex financial products and property bubbles rather than the real economy.

Two of the factors cited by the Equality Trust, family and early childhood are also identified by right wing commentators as contributing to poor educational and employment. The difference however is that while the Equality Trust highlights structural inequality, the latter tend to emphasis culture: it is poor parenting, low aspirations and a culture of worklessness and welfare dependency that must be addressed.

In reality, attitudes, values and aspirations cannot be separated from the opportunities and life chances afforded by the material circumstances into which we are born. Can you really isolate poor parenting from low paid, part time work on zero hour contracts that barely cover high rent, poor quality accommodation? The struggle, stress and insecurity of such a lifestyle, inevitably affects all relationships but particularly those of family.

Family income and wealth

Up to half of the gap between what you and others make in society is accounted for by the family you grew up in. In the UK 50% of a parent’s pay advantage is passed on to their children. Whether or not you can start a business or own your own home depends in large part on access to family assets and social connections. In the UK, this inequality of wealth is being bolstered by increases in house prices increasing the wealth of property owners while diminishing the chances of others to buy their own property.


The home learning environment has the strongest single effect on educational outcomes for children at age 10. A poor HLE is associated with a low level of mother’s education, larger families and living in areas of higher deprivation. This further adds to the inheritability of inequality. The effects of primary school are also much more important for disadvantaged students than advantaged ones and later educational success is strongly influenced by your level of attainment at 11, underlying the importance of primary schools to reduce inequality.