To read this content please select one of the options below:

Cherry picking: How sensitive is the relationship between inequality and social problems to country samples?

Heikki Hiilamo (University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)
Olli Kangas (Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Helsinki, Finland)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 7 October 2014

649

Abstract

Purpose

In their income inequality theory (IIT), Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett posit that income inequality is at the heart of social “ills”. However, their critics argue that the hypothesis is biased and that “cherry picking” is used and support for the IIT is obtained by selecting a suitable sample of countries. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

With a sample of 127 countries, the authors study to what extent the correlation between income inequality and social “ills” varies among countries sampled by geography, religion and income level.

Findings

The results of the analysis show that the strength and sometimes the direction of connections between inequality and social “ills” vary according to countries’ cultural background and historical legacies. The IIT is not a universal law. However, it is on a firmer footing than competing explanations.

Originality/value

The results contribute both to material and methodological debate on consequences of income inequality.

Keywords

Citation

Hiilamo, H. and Kangas, O. (2014), "Cherry picking: How sensitive is the relationship between inequality and social problems to country samples?", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 34 No. 11/12, pp. 771-792. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-12-2013-0118

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles