On Equality

Nicholas Eberstadt:

Is the human condition becoming more unequal? Many assert it is, but their focus is almost exclusively on economic inequality. This is problematic for two key reasons.

First, even in data-rich America, statistics on wealth distribution are at best rudimentary. Measured economic equality differs dramatically depending on whether one looks at income (pre- or post-tax? by the year or over a lifetime?), or at personal consumption, which seems to be distributed much more equally.

More crucially, income is not the only important measure of human well-being and life chances. Consider two global revolutions that are improving the human condition and making it more equal.

The first is how long people live. In 1751, according to the Human Mortality Database, Sweden’s overall life expectancy at birth was barely 38 years. But this was an arithmetic average for a population within which survival prospects were wildly, brutally disparate. Roughly a fifth of all Swedes died in their first year of life; by age 5 only 70 Swedes were still alive of every 100 born. But about half of those who made it to age 5 lived to 60 and beyond.