We need a review into inequality, but it must be done by the right people

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I am a signatory to this letter in the Guardian this morning questioning whether the IFS has asked the right people with the right balance of views and experience to review inequality in the UK:

We welcome the idea of a major review of inequality (Britain ‘risks heading to US levels of inequality’, 14 May). With Brexit looming and recent analyses linking income inequality to voting for rightwing populists, mass shootings, mental ill health, status consumerism and domestic violence, this is indeed a critical issue for our times.

However, there is widespread concern about the composition of this review’s “expert panel”, which has a majority of white economists. Although the panel includes an expert on health inequalities, none of the world’s leading experts on the health and psychosocial effects of income inequality itself are included, nor is there expertise in the spatial aspects of inequality. And there is a conspicuous absence of world-leading economists for whom income inequality is their primary focus — no Piketty, no Stiglitz, no Galbraith, no Frank, no Fitoussi, no Palma, no Chang, no Milanovic. Sir Angus Deaton, leading the review, stated in the journal Science in 2014 that he “get[s] angry” about the theory that inequality has psychological and social effects on health — perhaps he has changed his mind now that his own research has uncovered rising deaths from addiction and suicide in the US, but there are many researchers with much greater depth in this area. Even more troubling, there is no ethnic minority representation on the “expert panel”, no people with lived experience of inequality, no representatives of charities, trade unions or other NGOs. The number of disciplines represented is also small, although the impact of inequality goes far beyond economics.

We, and others, have been researching, educating and campaigning on inequality for many years, we understand the issues and we know what needs to be done. We cannot wait five years for a report from a worryingly elitist review. Getting policymakers and politicians to tackle inequality will require grassroots support from those most affected and is needed urgently.

Kate Pickett Professor of epidemiology and research champion for justice and equality, University of York
Richard Wilkinson Emeritus professor of social epidemiology, University of Nottingham
Danny Dorling Harold Mackinder professor of geography, University of Oxford
Dr Faiza Shaheen Director, CLASS
Dimitris Ballas Professor of economic geography, University of Groningen
Guy Standing Professor of development studies, Soas University of London
Dr Lorenza Antonucci School of social policy, University of Birmingham
Roberto De Vogli Associate professor, department of development and social psychology, and Human Rights Centre, University of Padua
Ann Pettifor Director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME)
Paul C Sutton Professor of geography and the environment, University of Denver
Susan Himmelweit Emeritus professor of economics, Open University, Women’s Budget Group
Dr Johnna Montgomerie Reader in international political economy, King’s College London
John Weeks Professor emeritus, Soas University of London
Dirk Philipsen Associate research professor of economic history, Duke University
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson Director, Women’s Budget Group
Ruth Pearson Emeritus professor of development studies, University of Leeds, and management committee, Women’s Budget Group
Dr Andrea Westall Senior visiting fellow, Open University, and Commissioner for Sustainable Equality
Charlotte O’Brien Professor of law, University of York
Rev Paul Nicolson Founder, Taxpayers Against Poverty
Michael Pirson Associate professor of management, global sustainability, and social entrepreneurship, Fordham University
Louka T Katseli Professor of economics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and co-chair of the Independent Commission on Sustainable Equality, Progressive Society
Lindsay Stringer Professor of environment and development, University of Leeds
Julia K Steinberger Professor of social ecology and ecological economics, University of Leeds
Hunter Lovins President, Natural Capitalism Solutions
Jonathan Bradshaw Professor emeritus of social policy, University of York
Robert Costanza VC’s chair in public policy, Australian National University
James Ward Associate professor, school of natural and built environments, University of South Australia
Tim Doran Professor of health policy, University of York
Dr Keri Chiveralls Adjunct research fellow, Central Queensland University
Mary Anne Mercer Senior lecturer emerita, Department of Global Health, University of Washington
Dr Stephen Bezruchka Senior lecturer in health services and global health, University of Washington
Roger Burrows Professor of cities, Newcastle University
Ida Kubiszewski Associate professor in public policy, Australian National University
Bev Skeggs Professor of sociology, University of Lancaster
Rowland Atkinson Research chair in inclusive societies, University of Sheffield
Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir Professor of sustainability science, University of Iceland
Richard Murphy Professor of practice in international political economy, City, University of London, and director of Tax Research UK
Jacqueline McGlade Professor of resilience and sustainable development, University College London
Damien Morrison Trustee, Tax Watch
Nick Meynen Policy officer for environmental and economic justice, European Environmental Bureau