Comparitive Social Policy

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This essay will outline the key characteristics of health inequality in the USA, identify the issues implicit to these health inequalities and appraise the concepts and theoretical frameworks most relevant to their analysis. There will be analysis of the cultural specificity of constructions of social groups as defined by their socio-economic status. Consequences for the groups and individuals involved in terms of need, well-being, life chances, social division and human rights. Comparison will be made with the equivalent in the United Kingdom and the lessons that can be learned from these comparisons will be discussed.

The greater the disparity in the distribution of wealth, the greater the disparities of health inequalities are between all socio-economic classes. The big idea is that what matters in determining mortality and health in a society is less the overall wealth but how that wealth is distributed, (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, p. 81). The more equally distributed the wealth, the better the overall health of the society. There is a clear correlation between income inequality and health inequality in all industrialised nations. The causes of health inequalities are structural; not individual as the political right would have us believe.

Income inequality in the US has the largest disparity of all industrialised nations and this gap has grown (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010); the Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, has increased by 1.6% to a score of 0.477 in 2011. The data shows a more unequal economy for the USA than countries like Uruguay, Argentina and Bangladesh. Within the figures there was also an increase in the share of aggregate income for the top 20% of Americans of 1.6% and – within that group – the top 5% saw a jump of 4.9% (a growth in income for the wealthiest). Figures released by the census also show that little dent has been made on America's high levels of poverty, with some 15% of the nation – representing around...
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