Opinion

We Have a Rare Opportunity to Create a Stronger, More Equitable Society

L. Taylor Phillips

By Shai Davidai, Martin Day, Daniela Goya-Tocchetto, Oliver Hauser, Jon Jachimowicz, M. Usman Mirza, Nailya Ordabayeva, L. Taylor Phillips, Barnabas Szaszi, and Stephanie Tepper

By Shai Davidai, Martin Day, Daniela Goya-Tocchetto, Oliver Hauser, Jon Jachimowicz, M. Usman Mirza, Nailya Ordabayeva, L. Taylor Phillips, Barnabas Szaszi, and Stephanie Tepper

Income inequality in the United States was at historic levels before the coronavirus hit. Now, as the disease—and the social and economic implications it brings—spread across the country, it is likely to create even deeper fissures between the poor and rich.

Low-income workers are more likely to have experienced income reductions and job losses, in part because they are less likely to be able to work from home; and they’re more likely to have been designated as “essential” workers who, by the nature of their work, are at higher risk of being exposed to the virus. Low-income workers are also less likely to have access to good health care, and less likely to be tested and treated for COVID-19. This widening gap between the rich and poor is likely to occur on a global scale, both within countries as well as between poorer and richer countries.

Within this bleak picture, there is both encouraging and discouraging news. As social scientists studying the antecedents and consequences of societal inequalities, we are heartened to see swift policy actions taken in countries around the globe to direct cash payments to low-income individuals, for example through stimulus checks in the United States, government-assisted furlough payments in the United Kingdom, or universal basic income in Spain. We are also encouraged that participants in a recent U.S. survey recognize that the virus has increased income inequality and agree that governments should commit to reducing it.

Read the full Behavioral Scientist article.

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L. Taylor Phillips is Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations.​