In Brief

UK risks reaching US levels of inequality, warns economist

IFS report found that ‘deaths of despair’ are rising amid financial stress

Soaring inequality in Britain could lead to the country becoming as unequal as the US, warns a Nobel prize-winning economist.

Sir Angus Deaton is spearheading a landmark review of inequality in the UK with the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The think tank said the economist would “point to the risk of the UK following the US” which has notoriously levels of inequality in pay, wealth and health.

The Guardian says that “a decade of stagnant pay growth for British workers” has left the country at “tipping point” but the Daily Telegraph argues that “inequality in total net household income has changed little since rising sharply in the 1980s”.

The IFS Deaton Review covers five years and examine inequalities in areas such as income, wealth, health, social mobility and political participation. 

Its headline revelation comes hot on the heels of analysis from the Trades Union Congress showing that real wages in the finance sector had outstripped average salaries in the UK over the decade since the financial crisis.

An accompanying research paper from the IFS found that “deaths of despair” in Britain have more than doubled among men since the early 1990s. This refers to deaths from suicide and drug and alcohol related issues. 

Among Britons aged 45-54 the number of deaths of despair per 100,000 people has risen from just over 20 in 1993 to 43 in 2017. Sky News points out that such deaths are now claiming more middle-aged lives than heart disease.

Speaking at the report’s launch, Deaton said: “There’s a real question about whether democratic capitalism is working, when it’s only working for part of the population.

“There are things where Britain is still doing a lot better [than the US]. What we have to do is to make sure the UK is inoculated from some of the horrors that have happened in the US.”

He has previously revealed problems arising from inequality in US, where prescription drug abuse has soared, saying: “There's a long history of bad or good things happening or good things happening in the US especially with health and then the same happens here.

“That's the big question about whether this is a precursor of what's going to happen here or whether it's not.”

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