Chapter 02

Defining Inequality

What we
mean by


Inequality is not just about wealth (net worth) or income (pre-tax salary). It can also be seen in life expectancy, or how easily a person can get healthcare, quality education or public services. There are inequalities between sexes and social groups. Every facet of inequality greatly hampers our ability to meet the SDGs. We must measure them all if we’re going to promote sustainable development.

How is inequality
The most common measure of inequality comes from
comparing levels of income.
Inequality increases and persists because some groups have more influence over the policy-making process. And other groups can’t make the system responsive to their needs. This leads to policy distortions and undermines the democratic process.
©UNDP Guatemala/Giovanni Diffidenti
Luis Felipe López-Calva

UNDP Latin American and the
Caribbean Regional Director

by country


The Americas

Although inequality has fallen in Latin America in previous years, it remains the region with the highest income inequality, a fact of which its citizens are well aware.

©UNDP Peru/Monica Suárez Galindo
In 2018


of Latin Americans said their countries were governed in the interest of the powerful — the highest number since 2004.

Since the 1980s the chasm between the haves and have-nots has grown in almost all of the developed world, including North America, Australasia, and Scandinavia, as well as in rapidly expanding economies such as India.

The Gini index is a statistical measure of the income distribution - the lower the Gini number, the more equal a society - so zero is perfectly equal.

Gini index graph Scroll here

World Bank Gini measures

Up Next:

The details

Take Action