What Does Social Inequality Mean?

Social inequality means the difference in status, resources, income and power that exists within a society and between different societies. Such disparity results from socially defining characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and age, which limit access to resources that certain people can have, states CEELBAS.

Inequality leads to divergence in terms of access to health care services, education or even political representation, says CEELBAS. A socially unequal society avails greater opportunities to certain people at the expense of others, resulting in uneven rewards, states Trinity University. While equality may not be attainable in capitalistic states, governments should actively engage in reducing the social divide.

Inequality also bears cultural significance as a society’s members compare themselves with other societies. Such relative inequality results in happiness in societies that are better off than their counterparts and breeds discontent in the latter, argues Sage. When it becomes pervasive, inequality breeds social unrest in a nation, says the New York Times.

Disproportionate access to resources also leads to social exclusion. Marginalized areas eventually suffer from common ills like inadequate housing, high crime levels, low life expectancy, high mortality rates and deficient skills. In the United States, inequality spawns indebtedness, as low-income earners borrow to pay their bills and attempt to maintain their standard of living, says the New York Times.