What we're reading: The Spirit Level

Here at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, we’re voracious readers.

Find out what we’re reading.

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
Penguin 2009
CCPA-BC Senior Economist Marc Lee’s read on it:
When I first heard the name The Spirit Level, it met with a roll of my eyes, kind of like when someone says Mother Earth during an environmental debate. But the book kept coming up from some sources I highly trust, and after picking it up I found it has little to do with the last known residence of Carlos Casteneda. In fact, it is the type of synthesis that is so rare these days, covering a wide range of empirical evidence, and weaving it together so nicely that at the end it just seems obvious. The sub-title gives it away: using cross-sectional international comparisons and states within the US (plus the occasional time series), the book makes its way through an undeniable link between higher inequality and adverse social and health outcomes. As someone who has spent a bit of time researching inequality, and advocating for policies to reduce it, I’ve noticed a tendency for researchers to sometimes fall into “statistical pornography,” or displaying data for its shock value (“just look at that growing gap”). What the Spirit Level does is provide the deep context for why that growing gap matters, linking it to real outcomes rather than ethical ideals, filling in the canvas with research on social determinants of health and life satisfaction. I’m pleased to say I got this one out of the library.

Read Marc's full review here.