Tom McDonnell: Richard Layte of the ESRI reports some interesting results on the association between income inequality and mental well-being here.
He finds that more unequal societies are characterised by lower levels of social trust and by greater feelings of inferiority at the bottom of the income scale. He forwards the argument that his empirical findings suggest these factors explain the lower levels of mental well-being in more unequal countries which contribute to higher levels of mental illness. High levels of inequality also stack the odds against poorer children succeeding.
The pro-inequality arguments were perhaps most memorably articulated by Michael McDowell.
While some of the privileged six-figure-salary brigade are conveniently quick to justify high inequality on economic growth and ‘incentive’ grounds, the actual empirical evidence does not appear to corroborate their arguments. As Layte points out, the more equal societies in Europe are also on average richer.