The Spirit Level: 20 Days, 20 Questions

July 19, 2010 11:00 AM

1. You claim to present an overview of the research on health and inequality, yet leave out the scientifically most heavyweight survey of the field, Princeton Professor Angus Deaton’s article in the prestigious Journal of Economic Literature. Is this simply because Deaton finds no robust relationship between life expectancy and income inequality among the rich countries? (Deaton, A. S. ‘Health, inequality and economic development’, Journal of Economic Literature, May 2001)


Read more here.


2. You base much of your thesis on the relationship between inequality and life expectancy within U.S states. Why do you neglect to tell your audience that researchers have found that this relationship vanishes once they control for demographic differences? (Deaton, A.S., D. Lubotsky. “Mortality, inequality and race in American cities and states”, Social Science & Medicine, March 2003).


Read more here.


3. Correlation is not Causation. This is true both for simple relationships and with multiple variables. Do you have any studies that actually establish a relationship between life expectancy and inequality, based on exogenous variation of inequality, quasi-experiments or any other well identified source of variation?

Read more here.

4. Your most famous claim is that “inequality kills”. Yet using OECD life expectancy data, UN life expectancy data, OECD Gini and UN Gini, with different selection of countries, in several specifications, we again and again fail to replicate your result and find any statistically significant relationship between life expectancy and inequality. Is the explanation that you have relied on cherry picking – using the exact selection of measures, countries and year where such a correlation can be shown to exist?


Read more here.


5. Your initial defense for the lack of a statistically significant relationship between life expectancy and inequality from OECD data overall was that we should look at the working age population. Do you have any further defense, given that the OECD data shows no statistically significant relationship also for the population between 15 and 60?


Read more here.



6. If inequality (rather than poverty) is strongly related to poor health, why can we not find any statistically significant relationship between inequality and health outcomes as measured by the OECD for 16 of 19 health variables?


Read more here.



7. If inequality is strongly related to life expectancy, why have the countries with the highest increase in inequality witnessed on average higher increases in life expectancy in the last two decades according to OECD data?


Read more here.

8. Why do you claim that more unequal nations have less creativity, (and that Portugal is as creative as the United States), when data from the World Intellectual Patent Organization shows the opposite?


Read more here.


9. Why do you claim that more unequal nations have more mental illness (and that the United Kingdom has 250% the mental illness level of Germany) when data from the World Health Organization shows the opposite?


Read more here.

10. Why do you claim that “[i]n Sweden, people don’t bother to check your tickets on the train or bus” when this is obviously not the case? The American audience reading the Boston Globe might believe you, but anybody who has lived in or visited Sweden will immediately see through the deception. 


Read more here.

11. Why do you exclude the Czech Republic, South Korea and Hong Kong from your analysis when all these societies are wealthier than Portugal?


Read more in Christopher Snowdon's book “The Spirit Level Delusion

12. Why do you suggest that people in more equal countries give more to charity when the reverse is true?


Read more in Christopher Snowdon's book “The Spirit Level Delusion

13. Why did you use older data for your life expectancy/inequality graph than you used elsewhere in The Spirit Level? Is it because more recent data shows no correlation with inequality?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

14. You use the high rate of teen births in Portugal (in 2002) as proof that inequality is related to teen births. Why do you not mention that abortion was illegal in Portugal until 2007?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

15. Why do you not include the crime rate in your index of health and social problems? Is it because the crime rate tends to be higher in 'more equal' countries?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion


16. Why do you say that homicide is inversely related to suicide when there is no evidence for this?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion



17. Why did Kate make a video called ‘Why Cubans live longer than Americans?’ when all the sources show that life expectancy in Cuba is lower than in the USA?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

18. On page 19 of The Spirit Level, you say you included alcohol addiction as a 'health and social problem', but you never discuss it in the rest of the book. Is this because the highest rates of alcoholism are in Scandinavia?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

19. Why do you say that young people "defer sexual activity" in more equal countries when there is no evidence for this?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion


20. Why do you write about "increased family break-down and family stress in less equal countries" when divorce and single-parent households tend to be more common in more equal countries?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

  



Nima Sanandaji is the Managing Director of the think tank Captus and fellow at the Swedish Taxpayers' Association.

Arvid Malm is the Chief Economist at the Swedish Taxpayers' Association.

Tino Sanandaji is a Phd Student in Public Policy at the University of Chicago and Chief Economist at Captus. 

They co-authored the recent TaxPayers' Alliance report The Spirit Illusion.

Christopher Snowdon is an independent writer and researcher, and the author of The Spirit Level Delusion.



1. You claim to present an overview of the research on health and inequality, yet leave out the scientifically most heavyweight survey of the field, Princeton Professor Angus Deaton’s article in the prestigious Journal of Economic Literature. Is this simply because Deaton finds no robust relationship between life expectancy and income inequality among the rich countries? (Deaton, A. S. ‘Health, inequality and economic development’, Journal of Economic Literature, May 2001)


Read more here.


2. You base much of your thesis on the relationship between inequality and life expectancy within U.S states. Why do you neglect to tell your audience that researchers have found that this relationship vanishes once they control for demographic differences? (Deaton, A.S., D. Lubotsky. “Mortality, inequality and race in American cities and states”, Social Science & Medicine, March 2003).


Read more here.


3. Correlation is not Causation. This is true both for simple relationships and with multiple variables. Do you have any studies that actually establish a relationship between life expectancy and inequality, based on exogenous variation of inequality, quasi-experiments or any other well identified source of variation?

Read more here.

4. Your most famous claim is that “inequality kills”. Yet using OECD life expectancy data, UN life expectancy data, OECD Gini and UN Gini, with different selection of countries, in several specifications, we again and again fail to replicate your result and find any statistically significant relationship between life expectancy and inequality. Is the explanation that you have relied on cherry picking – using the exact selection of measures, countries and year where such a correlation can be shown to exist?


Read more here.


5. Your initial defense for the lack of a statistically significant relationship between life expectancy and inequality from OECD data overall was that we should look at the working age population. Do you have any further defense, given that the OECD data shows no statistically significant relationship also for the population between 15 and 60?


Read more here.



6. If inequality (rather than poverty) is strongly related to poor health, why can we not find any statistically significant relationship between inequality and health outcomes as measured by the OECD for 16 of 19 health variables?


Read more here.



7. If inequality is strongly related to life expectancy, why have the countries with the highest increase in inequality witnessed on average higher increases in life expectancy in the last two decades according to OECD data?


Read more here.

8. Why do you claim that more unequal nations have less creativity, (and that Portugal is as creative as the United States), when data from the World Intellectual Patent Organization shows the opposite?


Read more here.


9. Why do you claim that more unequal nations have more mental illness (and that the United Kingdom has 250% the mental illness level of Germany) when data from the World Health Organization shows the opposite?


Read more here.

10. Why do you claim that “[i]n Sweden, people don’t bother to check your tickets on the train or bus” when this is obviously not the case? The American audience reading the Boston Globe might believe you, but anybody who has lived in or visited Sweden will immediately see through the deception. 


Read more here.

11. Why do you exclude the Czech Republic, South Korea and Hong Kong from your analysis when all these societies are wealthier than Portugal?


Read more in Christopher Snowdon's book “The Spirit Level Delusion

12. Why do you suggest that people in more equal countries give more to charity when the reverse is true?


Read more in Christopher Snowdon's book “The Spirit Level Delusion

13. Why did you use older data for your life expectancy/inequality graph than you used elsewhere in The Spirit Level? Is it because more recent data shows no correlation with inequality?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

14. You use the high rate of teen births in Portugal (in 2002) as proof that inequality is related to teen births. Why do you not mention that abortion was illegal in Portugal until 2007?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

15. Why do you not include the crime rate in your index of health and social problems? Is it because the crime rate tends to be higher in 'more equal' countries?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion


16. Why do you say that homicide is inversely related to suicide when there is no evidence for this?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion



17. Why did Kate make a video called ‘Why Cubans live longer than Americans?’ when all the sources show that life expectancy in Cuba is lower than in the USA?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

18. On page 19 of The Spirit Level, you say you included alcohol addiction as a 'health and social problem', but you never discuss it in the rest of the book. Is this because the highest rates of alcoholism are in Scandinavia?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

19. Why do you say that young people "defer sexual activity" in more equal countries when there is no evidence for this?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion


20. Why do you write about "increased family break-down and family stress in less equal countries" when divorce and single-parent households tend to be more common in more equal countries?


Read more in Christopher Snowdons book “The Spirit Level Delusion

  



Nima Sanandaji is the Managing Director of the think tank Captus and fellow at the Swedish Taxpayers' Association.

Arvid Malm is the Chief Economist at the Swedish Taxpayers' Association.

Tino Sanandaji is a Phd Student in Public Policy at the University of Chicago and Chief Economist at Captus. 

They co-authored the recent TaxPayers' Alliance report The Spirit Illusion.

Christopher Snowdon is an independent writer and researcher, and the author of The Spirit Level Delusion.



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