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Economic Inequality as a Social Welfare Challenge


Over the centuries, society and social welfare as a separate notion have been considered highly individual matters that are closely correlated with the human perception of the aforementioned welfare in the first place. This perception is frequently formed through the prism of social background that is influenced by the events that take place in the world, and the trends of generally accepted behavior and communication in society. Researchers claim that despite all the struggles related to the definition of welfare, it could be interpreted as the combination of the key requirements for a person to feel a full-scale part of the social construct (Baranowski, 2019). The most appropriate examples of such human basic necessities could be found in Maslow’s pyramid of needs that, when in symbiosis, create a beneficial environment for an individual.

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Like any positivist study, the notion of social welfare has an opposite research field that is known as welfare scarcity. The phenomenon could be defined as the impossibility to satisfy one’s basic needs for social fulfillment, making the term of ill-being (Baranowski, 2019). Such dissatisfaction with the level of one’s well-being could be perceived on both personal and collective levels. Hence, social welfare is quite an ambiguous notion that stands for the individual’s evaluation of basic needs on the micro- and macro-levels of the social structure. As a result, modern society is replete with challenges facing people today, as it fails to meet all the expectations they create in terms of their well-being.

When speaking of people’s understanding of social welfare challenges today, the paradigm of the issues present in the world consists of various examples that are equally important in the context. In particular, the 21st century predominantly focuses on the issue of discrimination based on one’s gender, race, and ethnic affiliation, creating major social discrepancies that later lead to the social gap expansion. However, the major issue caused by this discrepancy is the fact that the social gap has turned into a large-scale crisis in terms of the world economy, encouraging economic inequality development. Economic inequality as a notion stands for the disparities in the individuals’ incomes and wealth caused by various social, geographical, and financial aspects (Kraus et al., 2017). Hence, the primary aim of the following paper is to investigate the historical background of a social issue as well as to define the current stage of its development and prospects for the global community.

Historical development

When reflecting upon the roots of the economic inequality and the prerequisites it stems from, many people misinterpret the fiend they should pay major attention to in order to become at least one step closer to an answer. Whereas the vast majority sees the economy and politics as the main reasons for the social welfare challenges, it is the psychological aspect of the issue that matters the most in almost all cases. In fact, researchers claim that psychological analysis of the patterns of economic distribution provides society with valuable insights into the reasons why such inequality is still thriving in the first place (Bullock, 2019). Hence, the notion of inequality has always been present in world history due to human behavioral patterns in society since the genesis of the ancient civilizations.

Issue Origins

Throughout world history, the notion of economic inequality was rather an implicit issue than a large-scale catastrophe. Despite the fact that the development of economic inequality is replete with precedents that led to the increase in social gap and poverty between specific social groups, it also included the attempts to equate the discrepancy (Alfani, 2019). For example, the political ideologies promoted within a certain state influence a lot on the scope of the economic gap among its residents. Thus, the ideology of communism was aimed at eliminating economic inequality through people refusing from private property for the sake of the common good. However, such a system, while being economically beneficial was impossible due to the issue of individualism that was distorted as a result.

Capitalism as a Major Inequality Prerequisite

Later, an attempt was made to give people the right to fight to their own economic goals with the help of the free market genesis and competition. Such an effort is known in today’s context as a political ideology of capitalism, being relevant in the vast majority of countries, and the US, in particular. The major idea behind the ideology lies in the general assumption that human beings are individualists who are to compete for their own good rather that create a community that could possibly exist in symbiosis (Hinton & Maclurcan, 2017). As a result, the culture of individualism that has become one of the central behavioral aspects in developed countries encourages the rise of discrimination and inequality for a number of reasons.

To begin with, the availability of a free market presupposes that people enter these markets on equal terms. However, the examples of such countries as the US show that the social background limits one’s ability to compete, leaving thousands of people below the poverty line. Secondly, the genesis of capitalism has created a general assumption that the “for-profit” mindset is the major individual quality in today’s world. Once this tendency is changed, and people do not feel the blind eagerness to profit from others, the socioeconomic gap can be reduced by replacing a focus on more important human aspects.

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Economic Inequality Support and Opposition

While most people claim economic inequality to be the most important and challenging social welfare issue of the century, many of them do not dwell upon its roots and perception peculiarities due to their ignorance or tiredness of this problem being present in every life aspect. As a result, the notion itself lacks a critical approach in terms of the challenge analysis. The prime example of such a misinterpretation in the general attitude to the issue is the US – one of the leading states in the context of economic inequality.

Opposition Background

At one point, it seems that the issue of economic inequality cannot be regarded from a positive perspective due to its purely negative nature. In fact, the issue has many drawbacks for the middle-class representatives, who were born and raised in a democratic environment. The pillars of democracy claim that people are to be treated equally despite their racial, ethnic, religious, or gender affiliation. However, every day, local news is replete with examples of mistreatment and discrimination in terms of social relations and income. Hence, the economic inequality opposition has a full-scale right to be dissatisfied with the current industrial relations patterns.

Support Background

Nevertheless, some people feel as they are discriminated against because of the equality promotion. It was mentioned earlier in the paper that the psychological aspect of the issue claims that people would always be individualists who place their financial and emotional ambitions in the first place. Thus, the ones who were lucky enough to gain success in a so-called free market, do not feel the necessity to share their achievements with the ones who did not manage to work as hard as them. The democratic patterns of relations within the state presuppose that residents at a financial advantage should help the ones who need support. While the wealthy ones believe that they should not care about people who do not want to take care of themselves, they often forget that those people were initially at a disadvantage due to some social peculiarities. Hence, while the basic arguments of the economic inequality supporters might be understood, they are not exhaustive enough to outweigh the opposition of the following social welfare challenge.

Proposed Interventions

Bearing in mind that the social welfare challenges of economic inequality are now one of the most crucial issues the world is facing, it becomes clear that an increasing number of attempts are being made in order to combat the issue. Basically, these policies and actions could be divided into two major categories: governmental and non-governmental interventions in the social economy (Amis et al., 2017). To begin with, the implications of government intervention should be analyzed.

Governmental Interventions

The most visible complications of economic inequality are the instability and corruption in the labor market and a barely accessible healthcare system for the middle-class representatives. Both of these issues are to be meticulously controlled by the authorities with the help of modifying the already existing and non-working policies. According to CNBC as a primary US source, the fundamentals of political intervention in the fight with wealth inequality concern five major steps (Harwood, 2019):

  • Investing in human capital by giving better access to healthcare and education;
  • Raising the average wages for low-income and middle-class employees;
  • Giving more autonomy to the workers, reducing the business owners’ influence;
  • Expanding the infrastructure;
  • Paying more attention to intellectual property management.

Although these intervention strategies influence both groups of the social structure, the wealthy are not the vulnerable ones in this case. Hence, expanding the opportunities spectrum for the low-income and middle-class workers is the direct responsibility of the government, which pled allegiance to providing help and support for its fellow residents. However, nowadays, there is little chance for the authorities to provide the required support, leaving most of the responsibility to the non-governmental initiatives.

Non-governmental Interventions

In the context of the 21st century, the launching of various non-governmental and charity initiatives to promote socioeconomic equality in the global community has become a widespread phenomenon. However, the credibility of such initiatives is quite ambiguous due to the people’s perception of help. Some people see these interventions as the only way to combat the issue without the desired governmental support. Others, however, feel like such help is superficial, being created to fulfill one’s ambitions and take care of one’s ego. However, regardless of the initial reason behind an action, an act of selfishness that brings a measurable outcome can be perceived as help in combatting the challenge of economic inequality. Such resources are generally divided into two categories:

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  • The ones focused on financial support and action towards economic equity;
  • The ones that collect information and scholarly sources to make more people socially aware and concerned about the existing problem.

For instance, such non-governmental organizations as Open Global Rights draw worldwide attention to the already existing precedents of the income inequality, asking local residents and authorities to address the highlighted issues (“About us,” n.d.). Hence, taking into account the current scope of the interventions in the social welfare challenges of economic inequality, it might be concluded that people who face discrimination on a daily basis are, in fact, moving the power of change for a better future.

The Challenge’s Lasting Impact

It is practically impossible to trace back the spot on the timeline that would serve as a start date for the economic inequality genesis in the world. Ironically, it is also impossible to predict the approximate spot on the very same timeline that would put an end to this issue. The reason for this lies in the fact that any action related to this social welfare challenge complies with the fundamentals of the butterfly effect.

While seemingly developed countries do their best to improve the state economy, the financial situation of some individuals is affected to such an extent that the difference between the business owners and the middle class is calculated in billions of dollars. When speaking of this phenomenon in the US specifically, the economic inequality here is being both racialized and gendered, making it even harder to predict the issue’s future, as these issues are now the most significant in the context of the overall notion of equality (Michener & Brower, 2020). As a result, the world community will struggle with the implications of economic inequality for centuries, as people are still not ready to refuse from material goods for the sake of the worldwide stability.

For example, if to take a closer look at the following illustration followed by the New Yorker article (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2019), it might be understood that people now start to treat the issue with subtle irony and sarcasm, as they have already become tired of trying to act:


In such a way, a common recipient of the publicist literature in the 21st century is only armed with passive aggression and desperation due to the failure to make this world a better place for millions of residents. For this reason, the impact of socioeconomic inequality seems to be alive as long as humans live in the world, driven by their instincts rather than by common sense.

Personal Reflections

Living in a world where everyone faces inequality and discrimination on a daily basis, it is rather difficult to objectively evaluate the current social welfare challenge. The major reason behind this is, in my opinion, the abundance of emotions when dealing with the problem. In fact, if to look at the issue through the prism of pragmatics, the equality in society is an illusion, as no one who lives or ever lived on Earth was not able to witness absolute equality in the socioeconomic context. However, we were told from the very childhood that each human being was born in this world with the same opportunities and rights as others. Hence, all that could be done in the following situation is to keep trying to minimize the existing economic gap between individuals.


The following paper’s major purpose was to reflect upon the genesis and further development of economic inequality in society. As a result, it was established that despite close attention and ongoing attempts to combat the challenge, the issue would not be dealt with any time in the future. Thus, it is now of crucial importance to keep trying to make people more focused on their mental well-being and social role as community members instead of pursuing a constant desire to profit from others.


About us. (n.d.). Web.

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Alfani, G. (2019). Wealth and income inequality in the long run of history. In Handbook of cliometrics, 1172-1201.

Amis, J., Munir, K., & Mair, J. (2017). Institutions and economic inequality. SAGE Publications.

Baranowski, M. (2019). The struggle for social welfare: towards an emerging welfare sociology. Society Register, 3(2), 7-19.

Bullock, H. E. (2019). Psychology’s contributions to understanding and alleviating poverty and economic inequality: introduction to the special section. American Psychologist, 74(6), 635.

Harwood, J. (2019). 5 ways to fight wealth inequality, according to economists. Web.

Hinton, J., & Maclurcan, D. (2017). A not-for-profit world beyond capitalism and economic growth? Ephemera, 17(1), 147.

Kraus, M. W., Park, J. W., & Tan, J. J. (2017). Signs of social class: the experience of economic inequality in everyday life. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(3), 422-435.

Michener, J., & Brower, M. T. (2020). What’s policy got to do with it? Race, gender & economic inequality in the United States. Daedalus, 149(1), 100-118.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (2019). The rich can’t get richer forever, can they? [Image]. The New Yorker. Web. 

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