Moscow, 10 December 2019
Professor Vladimir Popov, Research Director in Economics and Political Sciences at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC), participated at the plenary session of the Civic Chambers of the Russian Federation International Conference “From Inequality to Justice: Global Experience and Solutions for Russia”. He presented his recent analysis of long-term trends in income and wealth distribution, highlighting the factors behind these trends and their possible consequences. Members of the Civic Chamber as well as international experts, politicians and public representatives from more than 15 countries took part in the discussion.
During the plenary session Prof. Popov spoke about the dynamics of the development of inequality in history. Today, inequality in many countries almost reached the highest level for the entire period of historical observations. The data we collected shows that inequality in Western countries was low until the sixteenth century, then started to grow , reaching its highest level in the nineteenth/early twentieth century and fell considerably after the First World War and 1917 Russian revolution. But since the 1980s there has been a continuous increase in inequality.
Prof. Vladimir Popov also took part in one of the breakaway sessions, where he presented his paper on happiness and inequality. Challenging conventional approaches, he argued that wealth inequalities (unlike income inequalities) might contribute to happiness in both poor and rich countries alike. The reason may be that wealth inequalities are an accumulated product of the past, whereas income inequalities are associated with the present and people are more likely to tolerate past rather than present injustices. Thus, a “certain degree of inequality is necessary to keep alive a kind of ‘American dream’: a future- oriented belief in getting rich and achieving success in life.” Different types of inequalities also have various effects on the redistribution of wealth. An increase in inequality at the very top may be more acceptable for a society than an increase in income differentiation among the middle class. A society where 99% of people are having roughly the same – equal – income, whereas 1% are multimillionaires, may show better acceptance of such conditions than a country where inequality is distributed more evenly.
Nevertheless, the increasing inequality within countries is accompanied by an array of negative consequences – stagnation and even a decline in life expectancy, an increase in crime rates, social risks, the limitation of upward social mobility (Great Gatsby curve), the creation of societal uncertainties while also feeding nationalistic and anti-globalization sentiments.
The discussions at the Civic Chambers of the Russian Federation International Conference covered various aspects of inequality in both developing and developed economies. The conference marked the beginning of experts’ consolidations and public dialogue on domestic and international practices of reducing inequality and making our societies more just.
The 1st panel video stream is here.
You may also be interested in:
Paradoxes of happiness
Income inequalities in perspective
Policy alternatives for reducing inequality
Wealth mobility: Implications for inequality
Interview with Vladimir Popov for the Expert journal in Russia
Billionaires, millionaires, inequality and happiness. – MPRA paper No. 94081, May 2019.
Interview with Vladimir Popov, Research Director in Economics & Political sciences at DOC Research Institute
В бедных странах экономическое неравенство делает людей счастливее. Это обнаружил российский экономист, изучавший связь между счастьем и благосостоянием. – РБК. Экономика , 28 мая, 2019 г.