Income Inequality Fuels Status Anxiety and Sexualization: Study
Sat, April 10, 2021

Income Inequality Fuels Status Anxiety and Sexualization: Study

Often characterized by the aphorism “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer,” income inequality refers to the fact that different people earn different amounts of money / Photo by: beeboys via Shutterstock

 

All of us want to gain the same opportunities that everyone else enjoys, especially the elites. However, many marginalized communities still struggle. While many factors might have influenced a situation like this, the most evident is income inequality.

Often characterized by the aphorism “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer,” income inequality refers to the fact that different people earn different amounts of money. It is a major dimension of social class affected by other forms of inequality, including inequalities of wealth, social status, and political power. Income is a major part of our life, especially in the working class, because it will determine our quality of life, affecting the health and well-being of individuals and their families. 

A recent report by the US Census Bureau revealed that income inequality reached its highest level last 2018 in more than half a century. According to Markets Insider, a stock market site by Business Insider with real-time data, custom charts and breaking news, a key measure of wealth distribution jumped to 0.485 in 2018, particularly in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and more. 

While the report showed that the real median household income rose by 0.8% during the same year, the majority of that growth has only affected higher-income earners and the owners of financial instruments. "Wages remain low, there is a lack of childcare for single-parent families, and so on. Work alone won't solve poverty — unless wages and earnings pick up substantially. It still takes government aid for families with children and others who do not earn enough, despite working 40-plus hours a week,” Timothy Smeeding, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who studies poverty and economic mobility, said. 

Is Inequality on the Rise?

A book titled “A Theory of Justice” written by American political philosopher John Rawls stated that inequalities in economic and social status don’t serve the needs and interests of the least-fortunate class in society, but only the elites. Another criticism of inequality appeals to an idea known as the declining marginal utility of money. According to Vox, an American news and opinion website, this means that the same amount of money means different things to people depending on their living standards. 

Income inequality has increased sharply since the 1970s. Fortunately, the balance has been redressed more recently, thanks to China and India. A 2018 study showed that there was a decline in global income inequality in 146 countries from 1988 to 2000. The trend hasn’t changed up until now. The fall of global income inequality only shows that the income gap between people living in advanced and developing countries is narrowing.

However, this doesn’t mean that income inequality should not be treated as a growing global problem. A high level of economic inequality means a higher level of poverty. In the face of increasing food prices and lower incomes, increased crime and poor public health have also become evident. While poor citizens struggle to elevate their quality of life, the wealthy ones continue to maintain disproportionate political power.

Income inequality has increased sharply since the 1970s. Fortunately, the balance has been redressed more recently, thanks to China and India / Photo by: pathdoc via Shutterstock

 

Impacts of Income Inequality on Anxiety and Sexualization

According to Seven Pillars Institute, an independent, not-for-profit think tank based in Kansas City, Missouri, income inequality increases political instability, which increases the risk of state repudiated contracts, threatens property rights, and discourages capital accumulation. At the same time, previous studies show an inequality-crime correlation. This is because marginalized citizens are more likely to suffer from resentment and hostility as a result of their economic position, urging them to engage in criminal activities just to survive. 

A recent study conducted by researchers from the universities of Melbourne and New South Wale discovered that women who live in economically unequal societies tend to choose more revealing, sexy outfits so they won’t be anxious about their social status. Since they live poorly, they use their attractiveness to get ahead of others.

According to Phys.org, an internet news portal that provides the latest news on science, the researchers used a role-playing experiment participated in by more than 300 people from 38 countries. They were asked to indicate how anxious they were about social status and to choose an outfit to wear for their first night out. Khandis Blake, University of Melbourne gender relations expert, stated that some women think that being pretty can be a smart strategy to climb the social and economic hierarchy. 

These studies show how people, especially women, are affected by income inequality. It influences their perspectives on physical appearance and their lives in general / Photo by: Tero Vesalainen via Shutterstock

 

“Our results favor a view of women as strategic agents, using the tools available to them to climb the social hierarchy in specific socio-economic environments. When we see women in these outfits, pouting into their phone cameras or preening over their appearance, we might think it's just narcissism. But things are more complex. It's really about women responding to incentives in their environment, given the state of their economy,” Blake said. 

Another study conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) showed that women are driven to sexualize themselves in selfies due to economic inequality. The researchers discovered that living a poor life boosts competitiveness and status anxiety. Women tend to be anxious and pressured with their appearance since we live in a patriarchal society where people value appearance more than other values. 

According to The Independent, a British online publisher of news, the study also found that the link between economic inequality and sexualization is stronger in developed countries. “Our findings have important implications: sexualization manifests in response to economic conditions but does not covary with female subordination,” the authors said.

These studies show how people, especially women, are affected by income inequality. It influences their perspectives on physical appearance and their lives in general.