Income Inequality in Later Life

  • Melissa Hardy
Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP, volume 1)

Inequality is one aspect of diversity. Differences among individuals, groups, organizations, or nations can be constitutive of a rich variety in talents, interests, expertise, or culture. But, when people face differences in opportunities, resources, rights, political access, life expectancy, or standard of living, for example, we speak in terms of inequality rather than diversity. This distinction in terminology signals the special meaning we assign to the distribution of hierarchically valued goods. However, this sorting process – the distinctions made between what we value and what we respond to with indifference – depends on context. Being able to read sets one apart from those who cannot read and being able to read well – better than many of those who can read – can be an asset when one lives in a world where the skill of reading provides access to people, positions and opportunities favorably located relative to the processes of production and distribution. Similarly, countries with high literacy rates are often viewed as more “developed” than countries with low literacy rates. But these rankings correspond to a global environment that values reading as an essential skill, one which commands higher levels of compensation and rewards a highly literate population with a relatively high standard-of-living made possible by a highly productive national economy. Whereas, the term diversity suggests a non-uniform distribution of something, inequality suggests a non-uniform distribution of something that matters either in a positive way, where access to or amount of that something provides advantage, or in a negative way, where exposure to or accumulation provides a disadvantage.


Social Security Income Inequality Gini Coefficient Income Quintile Home Equity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Hardy
    • 1
  1. 1.Gerontology CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA

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