What is Social Inequality?

The social inequality, also called economic inequality, is a social problem present in all countries of the world. It is mainly due to poor income distribution and lack of investment in the social area, such as education and health. In this way, the majority of the population is at the mercy of a minority who owns the resources, which generates inequalities.



Social inequality is the economic difference that exists between certain groups of people within the same society. This becomes a problem for a region or country when the distances between incomes are too large giving rise to large disparities. In theory, there will always be social inequality, since it is impossible for each to have exactly the same quantities of material goods.



Countless are the causes that widen the gap between rich and poor. The most common are:

  • Bad income distribution
  • Mismanagement of resources
  • Capitalist market accumulation logic (consumption, surplus value)
  • Lack of investment in social, cultural, health and education areas
  • Lack of job opportunities
  • Corruption


If a country cannot meet the basic needs of most of its citizens, it will not prosper equally. One of the most serious consequences is poverty, misery and slum. In addition, social inequality brings:

  • Hunger, malnutrition and child mortality
  • Rising unemployment rates
  • Big differences between social classes
  • Marginalization of part of society
  • Delay in the progress of the country’s economy
  • Increased rates of violence and crime

Social Inequality in Brazil

Aerial view of Belo Horizonte city where contrasts between neighborhoods are evident. Even though the country in recent years has shown a reduction in poverty, the level of social inequality in Brazil is still notorious. Whether due to its slaveholding past or lack of infrastructure investments, Brazil still has very high levels between the richest and the poorest.

Social Inequality in the World

Social inequality exists on every continent. There are places where problems are most evident, for example in African countries, which are among the most unequal in the world. For its part, in the Scandinavian countries, there is almost no difference between social classes due to the establishment of the welfare state after World War II. Unable to access health and education, it is unlikely that a person will have the best opportunities in the job market. Also the difficulty of access to cultural and historical goods by most of the population inhibits their opportunities.

Economic Systems

There is no consensus on which economic system generates the most social inequality. On the one hand, some studies claim that social inequality arose with capitalism because it is based on the idea of ​​capital accumulation and private property. Capitalism also incites the principle of competition and ranks the level of people based on capital and consumption. In turn, socialism aims to abolish private property, which would belong to the state, and thus eradicate social classes. So far, however, all socialist experiences have failed, as a ruling class has emerged that has more privileges than the rest.

Types of Inequalities

In addition to social inequality, there are other ways of assessing a society by the way it treats its members from an economic, regional, racial and gender perspective.

  • Economic inequality: inequality between income distribution.
  • Racial Inequality: Unequal opportunities for different races: black, white, yellow, brown.
  • Regional inequality: disparities between regions, cities and states.
  • Gender inequality: differences between men and women, homosexuals, trans and other genders.


  • According to the UN, Brazil is the eighth country with the highest rate of social and economic inequality in the world.
  • The “Gini coefficient” is a measure used to measure the level of inequality of countries according to income, poverty and education.
  • In the European Union, the country with the highest social inequality is Portugal.
  • The countries with the lowest social inequality are: Norway, Japan and Sweden.
  • The countries with the greatest social inequalities are from the African continent: Namibia, Lesotho and Sierra Leone.

Social Inequality