Social inequality


In most democratic countries in the world, people are said to be equal before the law. Justice, freedom, fraternity, respect constitute universal values ​​that sustain a democracy. However, the differences related to various factors such as social class, education level, age, gender, ethnic origin, religion , among others; are decisive in the appearance of social inequality. For some, social inequalities are acceptable and there is no need to correct them since, far from contributing to the quality of life of the individual, it would imply a leveling down. For others, social inequality is the consequence of economic, political or social domination and therefore must be corrected or at least reduced.

What is social inequality?

Social inequality refers to the difference in treatment that can benefit a social class, a group or an individual with respect to others and that establishes social hierarchies.

  • What is social inequality?
  • History of social inequality
  • Types
  • Causes
  • Consequences of social inequality
  • Solutions
  • Examples of social inequality

What is social inequality?

Social inequality refers to the different or discriminatory treatment that one person has towards another, because of their social class, their religion, their gender, their race, their nationality , among other things.


In general , it is the social minorities that most frequently receive discriminatory treatment. Dominant groups use discrimination to exercise control over minority groups .

History of social inequality

According to archaeological studies, already in the Neolithic period , there was inequality between the different individuals in society in terms of the way of working the land.

For the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau , in his work “Discourse on the origin and foundations of inequality between men” , social and political inequality does not come from divine will nor is it a natural characteristic between individuals.

For Rousseau, inequality arises as a consequence of private property and of those who seize the wealth of the world .

Despite the fact that at the time of the enlightened such as Rousseau, the ideas of freedom , equality and fraternity were defended and the importance of human rights were promoted , the time of the industrial revolution later marked a considerable difference between the levels. from income.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the difference in terms of the average income level between “poor” countries and “rich” countries had a ratio of 1 to 4, while at the beginning of the 21st century, this proportion has increased considerably from 1 to 30.


  • Cultural inequality: it is the form of inequality that is caused by differences in access to knowledge. This determines that there are different cultural levels in a society.
  • Economic inequality: it is the disparity that results from the different sources of income, wealth or work activity.
  • Social inequality: this form of inequality results from different living conditions between individuals, depending on sex, work, health, housing, education, family situation.


  • Economic causes : The low economic remuneration that is received for certain work activities may be a factor that leads to economic inequality.
  • Ethnic causes: The ethnic population to which the individual belongs can determine the treatment he receives. Xenophobia and racial discrimination are often associated with this type of social inequality.
  • Cultural causes: The differences that exist with respect to academic training and access to information can also be determining factors in the origin of social inequality.
  • Gender causes: Inequality between men and women is a reality that has existed throughout the history of humanity and that despite the fact that in the current era, many achievements have been made that favor women, there are still societies in the world where women have an unfavorable condition compared to men.
    Political causes: A government system that does not represent all sectors of society can result in unequal treatment of its citizens.

Consequences of social inequality

The countries in which there is greater social inequality may experience consequences such as those indicated below:

  • Decreased life expectancy and higher incidence of diseases . This consequence is linked to access to health system services and medicines.
  • Greater propensity for mental health problems and drugs .
  • Higher rate of early pregnancies . This phenomenon is associated with less access to education.
  • Lack of access to education . It should be noted that in some countries such as Niger or Pakistan, this consequence particularly affects women, who have limited access to education.
  • Growth of poverty . Indeed, in developing countries, it is the people who belong to the most disadvantaged classes who must pay the highest taxes.
  • Malnourishment . Unfavorable economic conditions directly affect the possibility of accessing a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Immigration . In countries with strong social inequality, many of its inhabitants decide to emigrate for economic reasons, seeking to improve their quality of life.


  • Adopt permanent policies , at the global and local level, aimed at studying the processes of social exclusion in order to prevent them.
  • Promote the training of professionals who specialize in social exclusion processes.
  • Prioritize the dissemination and design of educational materials aimed at promoting good practices in dealing with others.
  • Promote the proper use of the media, which are often a crucial factor in the formation of stereotypes .
  • Promote the growth of the labor market .
  • Strengthen social protection and health devices .
  • Propose and carry out social programs that allow all citizens to have a decent home.
  • Design actions aimed at ensuring equal opportunities regarding access to education for personal and social development.

Examples of social inequality


Despite being Spain , an economically developed country, according to certain data, almost 30% of the Spanish population is at risk of poverty . Indeed, apparently, in this country there are no real policies aimed at protecting the most vulnerable and redistributing wealth, or if they exist, they are ineffective. Consequently, Spanish society is an unequal society.


In Argentina, the problem of social inequality is increasingly evident . In this country, the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. According to some sources, the rich earn around $ 2,173 per month while the poor earn $ 85 per month. It should be noted that the Argentine basic basket is estimated at 325 dollars per month, while the total basic basket stands at 745 dollars per month. It is a situation that had already been increasing in the last years of the Kichner government and that has increased during the current Macri government.


Because of its size, Mexico is considered the 14th economy in the world. However, the reality is that around 45 million Mexicans are victims of poverty , which makes Mexico one of the most unequal countries in Latin America.

In addition to the distribution of wealth, other factors that contribute to greater social inequality are differences in gender and ethnic-racial origin. In the latter case, mention can be made of indigenous groups, which suffer great discrimination with respect to other social groups in the country. Almost 90% of the indigenous people in this country cannot access the education system, the health system and decent housing .


In Chile , the richest 1% of the population has a monthly income of $ 14,964,000 and even the richest 0.1%, receives a monthly income of around $ 83,000,000 while 0.01% receives $ 459,000,000 per month. In this sense, the greatest economic inequality is located in the highest part of the distribution.

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