Beyond Economic Inequality - a Socio-Ecological Perspective
Accordingly, our paper is a first attempted to take an integrated perspective on the social, ecological and economic dimensions of income distribution and consumption. Our central argument is as follows: the unequal distribution of income within a society is not only posing serious challenges for the economy but also adds to the steady erosion of a society’s natural resources as inequality fuels luxurious and status consumption. This type of consumption, in turn, can be characterized as relatively more damaging for the environment.
To tackle the issue form an integrated perspective, we will review the existing theoretical and empirical literature on income inequality, status consumption as well as environmental issues of specific consumption patterns. In a next step, we explore household expenditures and the evolution of income inequality in Germany over time to understand the inequality-consumption-nexus and shed light on the hypothesis that consumption changes in times of rising inequality. This is then linked to data on CO2 emission intensities for different household consumption patterns. We end by our paper with a discussion of our findings by placing them in the discourses around social and economic inequality as well as climate justice.