Inequality Makes Us Unhappy

"Americans are happier when national wealth is distributed more evenly than when it is distributed unevenly," says a recent study examining current and past wealth inequality. 

What's the Latest Development?

A study of happiness levels among Americans from 1972 to 2008 reports that society was more content in times of more equal income distribution. The inverse was also shown, that people were unhappier in times of greater inequality. Researchers say this is because levels of distrust and perceived unfairness increase when large wealth inequality exists without a clear meritocratic reason. In other words, Americans are willing to accept the wealth inequalities that accompany the capitalist economy but only if they are earned fairly. 

What's the Big Idea?

Several scientific studies suggest that a sense of fairness, often expressed through altruism, is rooted in our brain chemistry. One involved two groups of strangers who were given unequal amounts of money. When the group given less money was later given more, those given more money at the start registered a greater feeling of satisfaction than when they had initially received their larger sum. A study of primate behavior revealed that our animal relatives also react strongly against perceived unfairness, throwing cucumbers in protest.

Related Articles

To save us, half of Earth needs to be given to animals

We're more dependent on them than we realize.

(Photo Lily on Unsplash)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists says our survival depends on biodiversity.
  • A natural climate strategy we often forget.
  • Seeing our place among the Earth's living creatures.
Keep reading Show less

New infographics show how cigarette smokers are socially penalized

There's a high social cost that comes with lighting up.

Sex & Relationships
  • The home improvement company Porch recently polled 1,009 people on their feelings about smoking.
  • The company recently published the results as infographics.
  • In terms of dating, 80 percent of nonsmokers find the habit a turnoff
Keep reading Show less

The "catch" to being on the keto diet

While short-term results are positive, there is mounting evidence against staying in ketosis for too long.

Brendan Hoffman / Getty
Surprising Science
  • Recent studies showed volunteers lost equal or more weight on high-carb, calorie-restricted diets than low-carb, calorie restricted diets.
  • There might be positive benefits to short-term usage of a ketogenic diet.
  • One dietician warns that the ketogenic diet could put diabetics at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.
Keep reading Show less