Income Inequality

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Income gaps are essentially a manifestation of capability gaps and opportunity gaps. In this paper, I look at the “capability” approach and the “equality of opportunity” approach, and the extent to which these theoretical frameworks explain income gaps in society. Measurement of income, by itself, does not provide sufficient information regarding free choices available to people, such as lifestyle choices or leisure time available. Nonetheless, income gaps can be a good proxy to understand issues of equitable distribution in societies. In this essay, I explore the content of both “capabilities” and “equal opportunities” from a philosophical point of view and assess how income gaps can be related to inequalities in opportunities and capabilities.…show more content…
where you are born, how much wealth you inherit, if you belong to a minority community and so on. They are uncontrollable “circumstances” and affect freedoms to achieve functionings. For example, low intergenerational mobility in incomes often results due to the impact of one’s default position (place of birth and family of birth) on the kind of opportunities that an individual gets in a lifetime. Milanvoic concluded from his studies, that citizenship and parental income can explain up to 80% variation in person’s income, while remaining 20% also includes other circumstances such as gender, age, race and luck and others over which humans have control. Another controversial study called “the Great Gatsby Curve” shows that countries with high levels of income inequality in a country experience low earnings mobility across generations. It concludes that the missing link between income inequality and intergenerational mobility is inequality of opportunity. Corak calculated that in low Gini-coefficient countries such as Finland, Norway, and Denmark, less than 20% of economic advantage or disadvantage of a father is passed on to a son, while in US, it can be as high as 50%. Thus, intergenerational poverty may be a result of violation of equality of opportunity or failure to help people develop capabilities due to factors outside their control. Other cultural factors attributed to low income mobility such as neighbourhood effects, genetic traits (affecting IQ) etc. seem to have a more tenuous link. It is also possible to argue that the pattern of inequalities in opportunity or capabilities closely correspond to patterns in social exclusion, for instance, lower caste people in India. Further, in light of Kuznet’s theory and some of Piketty’s recent work, it is also critical to examine the extent to which income gaps are also largely a function of the state of development within a

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