Social inequality

In most democratic countries of the world, people are said to be equal before the law. Justice, freedom, fraternity, respect are universal values that sustain a democracy. However, differences related to various factors such as social class, education level, age, gender, ethnic origin, religion, among others, are determinants in the emergence 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 downward levelling. For others, social inequality is the consequence of economic, political or social domination and must therefore be corrected or at least reduced.

Social inequality

Related topics

Social groups, cultural diversity, interculturality, multiculturalism

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.

About social inequality

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

In general, it is the social minorities who are most often discriminated against. 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 different individuals in society in the way they worked the land.

For the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, in his work “Discourse on the Origin and Fundamentals of Inequality among Men”, social and political inequality does not stem from divine will nor is it a natural characteristic among individuals.

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

Although in the days of the enlightened like Rousseau, the ideas of freedom, equality and fraternity were defended and the importance of human rights was promoted, the era of the industrial revolution later marked a considerable difference in income levels.



Consequences of social inequality

The countries in which there is greater social inequality may have consequences, such as those listed below:


Examples of social inequality


In spite of being Spain, an economically developed country, according to some data, almost 30% of the Spanish population is at risk of poverty. In fact, apparently, there are no real policies in this country aimed at protecting the most vulnerable and redistributing wealth, or if they do 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 become richer and richer while the poor become poorer and poorer. According to some sources, the rich earn about $2,173 per month while the poor receive $85 per month. It should be noted that the Argentine basic basket is estimated at $325 per month, while the total basic basket is at $745 per month. This is a situation that has been increasing in the last years of the Kichner government and that has increased during Macri’s current government.


Because of its size, Mexico is considered the 14th largest economy in the world. However, the reality is that around 45 million Mexicans are victims of poverty, making 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 gender and ethnic-racial differences. 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 per cent of the country’s indigenous people do not have access to the education system, the health system or decent housing.


In Chile, the richest 1% of the population has a monthly income of $14,964,000 and even the richest 0.1% receive monthly incomes of around $83,000,000 while 0.01% receive $459,000,000 per month. In that sense, the highest economic inequality is at the top of the distribution.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Social inequality. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

Recommended for you