In an equal world, everyone has equal opportunities to survive and thrive. No one faces discrimination or unjust barriers to happiness and fulfillment. While there’s been progress in some areas, humanity is still a long way from equality. Why should we keep trying? Here are ten reasons why equality is important:
#1. Equality reduces poverty
In 2015, 10% of the world lived on less than $1.90 a day. Over the next few years, poverty declined, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought an additional 100 million into poverty. Women, who were already suffering from high rates of poverty, were especially affected. According to info from UN Women, the poverty gap between women and men is widest between 25-34 years old. Living with children is a factor and women are more likely than men to live in households with children. By identifying and addressing the causes of this gender disparity, the world could again begin to reduce poverty rates.
#2. Equality leads to healthier communities
A person’s location, income, sexuality, gender, and race all play a part in the healthcare they can access. Why? These are traits that are often discriminated against. HealthyPeople.gov cites research identifying individual and structural discrimination as a possible harm to certain groups. Discrimination based on race is linked to health issues like high blood pressure, low birth weight, and general poor health status. If discrimination – both individual and structural – ended and everyone could access healthcare equally, communities would be healthier. Equality affecting other social health determinants (like education and economic stability) would also improve society’s health.
#3. Equality extends peoples’ lives
Research consistently shows that in more unequal societies, life expectancy is worse. In one 2020 study analyzing Brazil, Ethiopia, and the United States, researchers examined the connection between national income and a country’s life expectancy. The study showed a link between inequality and lower life expectancies in the United States. Meanwhile, in Brazil and Ethiopia, gains in areas like gender equality increased life expectancies more than what was expected based on the national income. If a country wants to increase its population’s lifespans, equality should be a priority.
#4. Equality can reduce violence
In urban areas, violence tends to concentrate in specific places. What determines where these areas are? According to the World Economic Forum, it’s higher levels of income inequality and “concentrated disadvantage.” Racial and gender inequalities are also linked to higher exposures to violence. Neighborhoods surrounding these areas often experience residual violence. To reduce violence, inequalities must be addressed. That means identifying where the inequalities lie. Education access, job access, access to reproductive health, and political representation are common sources of inequality.
#5. Equality improves education
Access to education is a human right, but it’s an area where significant disparities remain. Consider the United States. In 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Black students, students with disabilities, and boys were disproportionately disciplined, which included expulsions and suspensions. Research also found that during high school, students living in high-poverty areas had less access to college-prep courses. The highest poverty schools were 80% Black or Hispanic. These are just two examples of inequalities in the US educational system. Addressing inequalities would give students access to much better education and a better chance at success in life.
#6. Equality would improve disability rights
Individuals and institutions treat people with disabilities – either visible or “invisible” – differently than those without disabilities. 15% of the global population has a disability, making this group the most marginalized group in the world. Prioritizing equality would mean inclusion for over 1 billion individuals. That means removing barriers and enforcing protections. People with disabilities would then get equal access to everything from education to healthcare to good jobs.
#7. Equality is good for the economy
Discrimination against certain groups always has an economic impact, both for the groups themselves and the economy at large. In 2020, Citigroup conducted a study examining the economic impact of racism against Black Americans. They highlighted four gaps: loss in potential business revenue because of discriminatory lending to Black entrepreneurs; income loss because of wage disparities; discrimination in housing credit; and lifetime income loss from discrimination in higher education access. The total lost GDP? $16 trillion. Similar studies support the bank’s findings that racial inequality hurts the economy.
#8. Equality addresses unfair justice systems
Criminal justice systems are hotbeds for inequality. In the United States, Black Americans are imprisoned in state prisons at almost 5 times the rate of white Americans. Research shows this is not a fair or justifiable disparity. As an example, an investigation examining hundreds of thousands of arrest records and federal drug convictions found that Black people were arrested more frequently – and punished more severely – than white people for drug crimes, despite the fact the two racial groups use drugs at the same rate. To reduce inequality in the justice system, America needs to take steps like reforming the sentencing system, creating better support for former prisoners, and creating better crime prevention programs.
#9. Equality is reached through equity
Equality and equity are often used interchangeably, but equity leads to equality. Take our example of disability rights. People with disabilities require different resources than those without disabilities. This doesn’t look “equal,” but the distribution of resources to those who need them most results in an equal playing field. Without equity, the equal distribution of resources only maintains inequality.
#10. Equality matters to human rights
Human rights can’t truly flourish in an unequal world. Where there’s inequality, there are always issues threatening human rights in forms like gender discrimination, disability discrimination, or poverty. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The word “equal” (or “equality” or “equally”) appears in the document 13 times. To create a world where the promise of human rights is fulfilled, the world must commit to tackling inequality.