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Poverty and inequality

Policy areas

"What exactly is your 'fair share' of what someone else has worked for?" (Thomas Sowell)

Most 'experts' define poverty arbitrarily as having an 'equivalised income' below 60% of the median. This confuses inequality (income distribution) with poverty (income adequacy), produces inflated poverty estimates and leads to counter-productive policies which aim simplistically at income redistribution rather than tackling the deeper causes of the problem.

Many social affairs intellectuals who complain about 'poverty' really want to bring about a radical redistribution of incomes. This is what drives the agendas of organisations like the Equalities & Human Rights Commission, and it explains why the spurious 'evidence' presented in books like
The Spirit Level is so uncritically endorsed. And because these claims are rarely subjected to critical scrutiny by academics, politicians and the media too often come to assume they must be true.




2012: 'Are equal societies better societies?' In Gary Johns, ed., Right Social Justice: Better Ways to Help the Poor (Connorcourt), summary of my criticisms of The Spirit Level
Purchase the book

The Rise of the Equalities Industry (Civitas). How equalities laws undermine equality
"Startling reading" (The Sunday Times)

When Prophecy Fails (Centre for Independent Studies). New edition of Beware False Prophets, my critique of 'The Spirit Level', including an extended review of how Wilkinson & Pickett responded to their critics.

'Difference, inequality and unfairness: The fallacies, errors and confusions in the Equality & Human Rights Commission report, 'How fair is Britain?' Civitas Online Report

2010: Beware False Prophets (Policy Exchange). My critique of 'The Spirit Level'
'A thorough debunking' (David Aaronovich, 'The Times')
Free download or purchase hard copy

Poverty of ambition: why we need a new approach to tackling child poverty
Policy Exchange Research Note
Download or purchase

2005: 'Clearing muddy waters: Why Vinnies are wrong on inequality'
Issue Analysis No. 60, Centre for Independent Studies

2004: 'Lies, damned lies and the Senate poverty inquiry report'
Issue Analysis No. 46, Centre for Independent Studies

Poverty in Australia: Beyond the Rhetoric (Centre for Independent Studies). With KayokoTsumori.
(out of print; download available)

2002: 'Poor concepts: Social exclusion, poverty and the politics of guilt'
Policy vol 18, no 2, Winter (with Kayoko Tsumori)

2001: 'Social class' in N. Smelser and P. Baltes (eds)
International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier

Social Class and Stratification (Routledge)
Buy from Amazon

A Nation of Home Owners (Unwin Hyman)
'One of the most important books on housing in the last few years' (
Buy from Amazon

1984: 'Beyond housing classes: the sociological significance of private property rights in means of consumption'
International journal of urban and regional research vol.9

Property Paternalism and Power (Hutchinson). With Colin Bell, Howard Newby and David Rose
Out of print

Tackle intergenerational unfairness by giving private tenants a Right to Buy, Conservative Home, 15 June 2016

Increasing welfare benefits is the wrong solution to poverty.
Joint article with Andrew Baker, published in Australia's
The Punch 29 October 2012

Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan's romantic speech about his working class roots and blue collar rock band heroes does not stand up to empirical examination,
Australian Financial Review, 2 August 2012

Former Labour Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, interviews me on my claim that UK Equalities laws are costly and counter-productive.
LBC London Radio, 23 December 2011

Carefully selected countries, cherry picked indicators, statistical smoke and mirrors... why The Spirit Level is trash social science
ABC Radio National
Counterpoint interview, 19 September 2011

Why The Spirit Level is such a misleading book
The Australian. 9 September 2011

Hate crime legislation undermines the principle of equality before the law.
BBC Radio 4
Black Roses Debate, 24 August 2011
Listen to extracts

Why the Spirit Level is wrong
BBC Radio 4,
Analysis, 11 October 2010

The Spirit Level is bad social science,
The Guardian 26 August 2010

Busting the myth of our rigid classes,
The Sunday Times 6 June 2010

Elitism should not be a dirty word
The Australian 13 August 2007

Housing wealth holds the key to closing money gap
Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 2003

For richer, for poorer
The Australian, 16 January 2002

If the rich get richer, it doesn't necessarily mean poverty increases
7.30 Report, 16 January 2002

Get rich or get equal?
Debate on inequality at the Battle of ideas with Danny Dorling, Rob Killick and Marryn Smerset Webb, chaired by Peter Lloyd.
The Barbican, London, 20 October 2013

Debunking the Equality Myth: A Critique of The Spirit Level

Presentation to the Centre for Independent Studies, via video link, 6 June 2011.
View presentation
View Q&As

Debate for
Guardian weekly podcast, recorded 26 April 2011.
Debate on whether government should reduce income inequality, featuring left-wing journalist Polly Toynbee (who thinks it should), Marxist geography professor Danny Dorling (who thinks it should), and Demos 'progressive conservative' Max Wind-Cowie (who thinks it should). Chaired by Aditya Chakrabortty.

Are we still a classless society Mr Cameron?
Battle of Ideas, University of London, 31 October 2010. Debate with Daily Mirror journalist Kevin Maguire, marxist sociologist Neil Davenport and journalist Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal.
View video

RSA Debates: 'The Spirit Level' at the Royal Society of Arts , 22 July 2010.
Debate on the claims made in 'The Spirit Level'. Partnered by Chris Snowdon (author of 'The Spirit Level Delusion') and opposed by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
View video

Presentation to 'Child poverty in hard times' conference (Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, Birmingham, 29 April 2009)
View slides

What future for the marginalised minority? Presentation to Melbourne Institute 'Agenda for Prosperity' conference, March 2008
View slides

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