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Causes of social inequality

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

What is social inequality?

Social inequality is when resources in a society are unevenly distributed. This means that some people in society have less because resources are not granted to them.

What causes social inequality?

Some causes of social inequality include:

Uneven distribution of wealth

Financial resources and assets are unevenly distributed across the population. A relatively small percentage of people have a greater proportion of wealth compared to the majority of people. People with greater wealth have access to more opportunities than those with less wealth.

Income - Unequal levels of income

A significant difference in income between people at the top and bottom levels of income advantages those on higher income and disadvantages those at the lower end of the income scale. People at the bottom end of the income scale have access to fewer opportunities than those at the top.

The family you are born into - its wealth and assets - status/class

Some people may hold privileged positions such as hereditary titles or may have gained a high status in society. They can use their position to access opportunities and this advantages them compared to others not in that position.

Lack of social mobility

There may be few opportunities for people in lower income/status groups to improve their position in society. This limits their opportunities/life chances.


People who are unemployed or in low paid employment have less opportunities than those in well paid jobs. Unemployed people are more likely to be living in poverty.

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