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Fairness and the changing fortunes of people in Britain


Address for correspondence: Danny Dorling, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK.


Summary.  Different people have different definitions of fairness, some of which may be fairer than others. The paper considers how some key life chances have changed in Britain from the time when William Beveridge was a young man, to when his research assistant, Harold Wilson, was Prime Minister, and then to today. The emphasis is on inequalities in critical outcomes between different groups that have been defined geographically. How have income and wealth inequalities altered over the course of the last century and few decades and how have rates of mortality varied? How do the geographies of school examination passes, university entry, employment or even changing rates of imprisonment influence our lives today? To understand changes in fairness and our fortunes better these trends sometimes must be put in a longer historical and a wider geographical context. Sometimes it is necessary to look back a century in time to find comparable inequality with that of today. And to know that such inequality is not universal the changing levels of income inequalities within Britain need to be compared with trends in otherwise very similar nation states. Such comparison is essential if the argument that rising inequality is inevitable is to be countered. Precisely how fairness and fortune are measured alters whether we find them to be rising or falling. Thousands of statistics can also be dull and so graphics and some more unusual visualizations which open up the map are used to illustrate the trends that are discussed here.