Is Gini to blame?


The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche -claimed that there was no such thing as an objective judgement ie one informed purely by empirical evidence and the application of  reason. Individuals (including philosophers)  unknowingly allow their own prejudices and cultural background to influence their judgement and one is reminded of this when reading the various explanations given for the recent riots in our major cities. These reasons include,  but are not limited to,  gang culture, black rap culture, immigration,  criminality, greed,  drugs, police tactics , stop and search, Police corruption, the Labour Government, the Coalition Government,(the Thatcher Government?) government cuts, tuition fees, August, poor education, youth unemployment, the NEET cohort,  economic deprivation,  poor parenting , broken homes, absent fathers, the judicial system, weak sentencing, the declining influence of religion and church leadership, the Gramacian Counter Culture  (don’t ask) , the concentration of wealth in the few, bankers excess  and so on. But maybe its  partly Ginis fault!

The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper “Variability and Mutability” .This is the most commonly used measure of inequality. The coefficient varies between 0, which reflects complete equality and 1, which indicates complete inequality (one person has all the income or consumption, all others have none).

Using this method, the measure of overall income inequality in the United Kingdom now happens to be higher than at any previous time in the last thirty years.  The Gini Coefficient of the UK is the second highest in Europe (0.34 or so) and one of the worst in the industrialised world.  The overall message when it comes to the UK is simple: income inequalities have been increasing, both recently and over longer time periods.  These inequalities have been increasing at both ends of the spectrum.  In other words, the poorest have fallen further behind the average, and the richest have moved further ahead. Inner London is deeply divided: it has by far the highest proportion of people on a low income (29% in the poorest fifth) but also a high proportion of people on a high income (28% in the richest fifth). In South East England the figures are respectively 17% and 27%.In short the gap between rich and poor is increasing. Add to this volatile mix the perception that some of those with huge amounts of money haven’t been behaving very well, of late, and indeed appear to have caused, or at the very least, exacerbated our financial and economic problems, and it could explain at least one aspect of why communities are fracturing from the bottom up.

What is also interesting and should  presumably be put in the mix  is that ,despite the greater inequality in the USA, according to a Sutton Trust report,  almost 70% of the people surveyed there  believe they can do better in the future (class mobility), whereas in the UK less than 40% believe they will rise out of poverty.  We also know that social mobility has stalled in the UK and that the education system is not seen as a leveller.

None of this, of course, goes any way to remotely  excusing the malicious , nihilistic violence, looting and arson that we have witnessed over the last week. But maybe these are issues that  should be looked at as part of the overall  mix in the post mortem into the possible causes.

One other interesting footnote –David Willetts, the Higher Education Minister,  in his book the Pinch wrote ‘  Even in sober law-abiding Britain we saw the turmoil that resulted when the baby boomers were coming to adulthood. The two most violent riots in post-War London were the Grosvenor Square riots of 1968 and the Brixton and Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. They occurred around twenty years after each of the post-War baby boom peaks. (p129 of the paperback edition)’

Stuart Bonar points this out on his blog and adds ‘ Well, the third postwar peak in births (lower than the other two at 706,140, but still a peak with a trough either side) occurred in 1990. Yes, that’s right: 21 years ago this year.’

In the meantime, in the aftermath, our communities are making impressive strides in fighting back   and are trying to rebuild themselves and re-establish their  confidence, identities and mutual support networks.


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