Within the next 10 years, inequality will be the number one trend shaping the world—the World Economic Forum says so. Ready to learn why? The OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) explains that even when the economy grows, prosperity doesn’t necessarily reach everyone in society:
Let’s think even bigger. Structural inequality is when institutions work together to create a system that oppresses specific identities or classes of people, creating structural barriers to equality and mobility. It reinforces different social issues like racism and poverty.
It’s complicated...but let’s break it down. First, we need to understand which structures we’re talking about. A good starting point is to think about institutions like the government, criminal justice system, religion, education, health care, media, and housing, just to name a few.
Your identity most likely affects how you feel about an institution. For example, thinking about a bank will make a rich person feel neutral or safe, whereas it may make a person with less money feel anxious or scared. Want to know how inequality is making you and everyone else unhappy?
Systems can oppress based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or many other factors of identity. You will also hear this called systemic oppression. Here’s a first-person narrative of why this matters:
So what does this mean in your life? Take a deep breath and remember that structural inequality is so deeply entrenched that it can be hard to see, let alone understand or apply.
Social mobility is one way that many economists and social scientists measure inequality—it’s the ability of children to have a better life than their parents. Want it explained with Legos? (Of course you do.)
Raj Chetty is the leading economic whiz kid of social mobility. Maybe you’ve heard of the American Dream—it’s the idea that if you work hard enough, you’ll do well. Raj thinks the American Dream has packed its bags and moved to Canada. Want to know why?
Ready for more?