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Challenging The Spirit Level: Is There Really a Relationship between Inequality and Obesity?


  • Darshan Zala

    independent researcherSearch for more papers by this author
    • The author is an Warwick and Sheffield. In 2012 he spent some time at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Email: The author is grateful for the helpful feedback and suggestions, in particular from the editor. Please contact the author for fuller details of the literature search/review and methodology.


This paper examines the proposition, set out in The Spirit Level, that inequality is associated with high levels of obesity. It reviews existing literature and uses British Household Panel Survey data to study how district-level and regional-level income inequality is related to obesity in the UK. This is likely to be the first study of its type that uses individual-level data that is representative of the UK population. We find little evidence to support policies that reduce income inequality with the aim of reducing obesity levels in the UK.