Inequality negatively impacts physical and mental health, education outcomes, trust and community life, homicide rates, children’s health and wellbeing, drug abuse, and more. As a result, more equal societies have far less health and social problems.
While the U.S. currently has the worst record on income inequality, the gap is growing in Canada at a faster rate and, within Canada, the trend in B.C. is much worse than in most other provinces. In the last ten years, the average household income of the top 1% in B.C. has increased by 36% while, for the rest of us, real median incomes have stagnated, even though we’re working harder.
This isn’t just about market forces. Government policies keep incomes at the bottom low and give tax breaks to those at the top. Our welfare rates are completely inadequate at $610 a month for a single person. And the final minimum wage rate of $10.25 an hour will not put a worker above the poverty line in Vancouver and other large cities in B.C. But the view from the top is pretty rosy, with the top 1% of B.C. households paying a lower overall tax rate than others. In fact, provincial income tax cuts introduced since 2001 have delivered, on average, $41,000 to the top 1%.
Poverty is concentrated in specific populations, such as Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, refugees and temporary foreign workers (including farm workers and live-in caregivers), lone-mother households and single senior women, so the negative effects of inequality are more likely to be experienced by these groups.
Let’s get to the heart of the problem. Economic growth doesn’t make societies more equal; in fact, it may do the opposite. A poverty reduction strategy and a fair tax system would make our society more equal and our communities healthier, both physically and socially.
- Growing Gap project
- The Clash for the Cash: CEO vs. Average Joe
- Mind the Gap: Income Inequality Growing (BC Stats, January 2012)
- Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising (OECD, December 2011)
- Summary of The Spirit Level – Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, Autumn 2011)
- Wealth and Income in the Top 1% (Marc Lee, October 2011)
- The Equality Trust
- BC’s Growing Gap: Family Income Inequality, 1976-2006 (CCPA, March 2009)