Recent work on inequality: thoughts on audience, analysis, advocacy and the role of the academic
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Recent years have seen an explosion of academic work exploring the increase in economic inequality in western, developed countries over the last thirty years. This work gives accounts of the extent of this increase (Atkinson & Leigh, 2005; OECD, 2011; Perry, 2013), its possible causes (Autor, Katz & Kearney, 2006; OECD, 2008) and its various consequences. Accounts of these consequences may be divided (somewhat arbitrarily) into those that focus on broadly-experienced social consequences (Wilkinson, 1996; Jencks, 2002; Rothstein & Uslaner, 2005); political consequences (OECD, 2011; Bartels, 2008) and economic consequences (Persson & Tabellini, 1994; Piketty & Saez, 2003). Other work takes a more explicitly normative approach, or a focus on public attitudes towards rising inequality (Humpage, 2008; Bamfield and Horton 2009; Jost & Major, 2001). Academic work on inequality is thus a massive and massively complex field, even without mentioning work by such important authors as Bernd Wegener, Martin Gilens, Alberto Allesina, Peter Taylor-Gooby, Morton Deutsch, Christopher Jencks or David Miller). One might also note the increasing concern about inequality expressed by politicians and media sources. A non-exhaustive list would include figures hardly associated with the political left, such as David Cameron, the World Economic Forum, the Financial Times, and the Economist.