All connected? Geographies of race, death, wealth, votes and births

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In January 2010 we learnt that within London the best-off 10th of the population each had recourse to 273 times the wealth of the worse-off 10th of that population ( Hills et al. 2010 , An anatomy of economic inequality in the UK Report of the National Equality Panel, Government Equalities Office, London). It is hard to find any city in an affluent country that is more unequal. This wealth gap did not include the assets of the UK super-rich, who mostly live in or near London. In April 2010 the Sunday Times newspaper reported the wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK had risen by an average of £77 million each in just one year, to now stand at £335.5 billion. Today in the UK we are again as unequal as we were around 1918. For 60 years we became more equal, but for the last 30 years, more unequal. Looking at inequality trends it is very hard, initially, to notice when the party of government changed. However, closer inspection of the time series suggests there were key times when the trends changed direction, when the future was much less like the past and when how people voted and acted appeared to matter more than at other times. With all three main parties offering what may appear to be very similar solutions to the issue of reducing inequality it seems unlikely that voting in 2010 will make much of a difference. However, today inequalities are now at unsustainable extremes. Action has been taken such that some inequalities, especially in education, have begun to shrink. The last two times that the direction of trends in inequalities changed, in the 1920s and 1970s, there were several general elections held within a relatively short time period. Inequality is expensive. The UK is not as well-off as it once was. It could be time for a change again. Which way will we go?

Keywords: UK; health; inequality; race; votes; wealth

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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