More junk epidemiology below. The authors find less social dysfunction in Nordic countries and in Japan and say that is because incomes are more equal there. So, like nearly all epidemiologists, they make causal inferences from correlational data — which you cannot logically do. They allegedly spent 30 years arriving at their conclusions so I am sorry to say that it took me approximately two minutes to see an alternative explanation for their findings: ethnic diversity. Japan to this day has few immigrants and the Nordic countries have only recently begun to have a large immigrant population. And as Robert Putnam has famously shown, social homogeneity expands trust and co-operation. So there is less social dysfunction because people feel happier and safer and more co-operative in a country where most people are like them.

And, without looking at it in detail, I am guessing that the same applies to U.S. States. States with the largest minority populations (the South?) have the highest level of social dysfunction.

How nasty of me to undermine so quickly conclusions that so suit the prejudices of the Left! But even if all of the explanation that I have just given is wrong, the point still stands that “correlation is not causation”. You learn that in Statistics 101 but if you are a grand epidemiologist, you are allowed to ignore that, apparently. And BOTH of us could be wrong. There could be some third process at work generating the numbers concerned. Assigning causes from epidemiological data is always mere speculation.

“It is common knowledge that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. Likewise, large inequalities of income are often regarded as divisive and corrosive. In a groundbreaking book, based on 30 years’ research, Richard Wilkinson, Emeritus Professor at The University of Nottingham together with co-author Kate Pickett from the University of York, go an important stage beyond either of these ideas to demonstrate that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them — the well-off as well as the poor.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett forcefully demonstrate that nearly every modern social and environmental problem — ill-health, lack of community, life, violence, drugs, obesity, mental illness , long working hours, big prison populations — is more likely to occur in a less equal society, and adversely affects all of those within it.

The remarkable data the book presents and the measures it uses are like a spirit level which we can hold up to compare the conditions of different societies. It reveals that if Britain [Which has always received lots of immigrants and which as a consequence now has a large and troublesome minority population] became as equal as the average for the four most equal of the rich countries (Japan, Norway, Sweden and Finland), levels of trust might be expected to increase by two-thirds, homicide rates could fall by 75 per cent, everyone could get the equivalent of almost seven weeks extra holiday a year, and governments could be closing prisons all over the country.

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, shows us how, after a point, additional income buys less and less additional health, happiness and wellbeing. The issue is now community and how we relate to each other. This important book explains how it is now possible to piece together a new, compelling and coherent picture of how we can release societies from the grip of pervasive and schismatic dysfunctional behaviour, a picture which will revitalise politics and provide a new way of thinking about how we organise human communities. It is a major new approach to how we can improve the real quality of life, not just for the poor, but for everyone.

More here

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