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Why more equal societies are always happier

Harsh realities: Keith Payne’s The Broken Ladder - How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die

Book Review: Must Reads For Youth

The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne (Ages 15+)

Why are more equal societies happier? Income inequality and its impacts on society have been topical in the past few years.

As such, Payne’s The Broken Ladder offers a timely examination of the widespread societal effects of inequality, discussing how the root negative impact of high inequality is making people feel poor.

Professor Payne is a psychology expert at the University of North Carolina, specialising in the psychology of inequality and discrimination.

The Broken Ladder details the eye-opening effects of inequality on society in an easy-to-understand way, notably explaining how feeling poor damages society just as much as actually being poor.

The Broken Ladder breaks down economic and social theory quite well, aiding the reader’s understanding of statistics and theories by drawing on Payne’s own personal life experiences. This further immerses the reader into inequality’s ramifications and harsh reality.

Strikingly, in the beginning of The Broken Ladder, Payne explains the moment where he first realised that his family was poor and how this changed his perspective of his status and relationships with others.

Each chapter tackles a different part of inequality’s societal impacts. This ranges from how humans naturally compare themselves with others, to the internal logic of being poor and spending money in a riskier way.

All teachings are linked back to real-world behaviours and they can be changed.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter that examined how the experience of feeling poor (regardless of actually being poor) makes individuals more vulnerable to skewed perceptions of reality.

Our world is in a constant state of randomness – humans detect patterns in this randomness and attribute value to them. In unequal societies, people detect randomness at a higher rate, ascribing value to them in the form of conspiracy theories or reinforcing religious beliefs.

I’d recommend this curious examination of the societal “broken ladder” to anyone curious as to how income inequality affects society, as well as what can be done to alleviate these societal symptoms on a local and global level.

This is an especially pertinent question in a highly unequal society like Bermuda, and I encourage all to give this relevant and cogent book a shot.

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Published March 13, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated March 13, 2023 at 8:21 am)

Why more equal societies are always happier

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