'Spirit Level' authors to speak in Dunedin

Academics whose work sparked worldwide debate about wealth inequality will give a public lecture in Dunedin next week.

The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone authors Prof Richard Wilkinson and Prof Kate Pickett will speak about the link between societal problems and the wealth divide revealed by their controversial research.

The British academics argued that more equal countries do better on a host of measures, regardless of the country's overall wealth.

Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark said The Spirit Level started the debate on health and social ills wrought by economic inequality when it was published five years ago.

Sir Alan organised the Dunedin visit, securing agreement from the University of Otago to fund expenses.

The two epidemiologists were visiting New Zealand to give the Sir Douglas Robb Lectures in Auckland. At Sir Alan's invitation, the academics have added Dunedin to their itinerary.

The Spirit Level aimed for a general audience, and Sir Alan believed its themes attracted those beyond the academic community.

The issue was pertinent for New Zealand, once a ''prime egalitarian'' society. The book highlighted New Zealand's high level of inequality and the accompanying social problems.

The talk is at 5.30pm on Monday at the College of Education Auditorium.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz