As progress is made to develop communities and economies, SDG 10 works to leave no one behind in the process. The share of the global population living in poverty has declined substantially in this century, but the benefits have been concentrated in a few countries, and have not accrued for disadvantaged groups within countries.1 Addressing inequality is not only key in poverty reduction — it also combats unequal opportunities today that would otherwise lead to unequal outcomes tomorrow. SDG 10 is further refined by targets that that can be more readily translated into actions. These targets highlight the interconnected nature of the goals: For example, strategies to support Reduced Inequalities also promote progress toward SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 3 (Quality Education). Below are a series of synergies that can come from providing access to products, services and systems that address Reduced Inequalities.

Invest in Access to Fair Treatment and Equal Opportunity

The poorest segments of society often face unequal treatment and barriers to accessing the same opportunities as those of wealthier groups, fueling the cycle of inequality. Gender is a major basis for discrimination — girls in poor households are less likely than boys to be in school,2 and women everywhere are more often victims of gender violence,3 hiring discrimination4 and pay discrimination than men.5 Discrimination based on race and ethnicity also acts to perpetuate inequality. In the U.S. and abroad, rates of poverty, poor health, and low education for communities of color and marginalized ethnicities remain disproportionately high.6,7 Further fueling this cycle, certain policies and attitudes further disadvantage people simply because they are poor, leading to further segregation.8 To reverse the cycle of inequality and discrimination, systems of resource allocation and access to opportunities must be balanced.

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Invest in Access to Financial Services

The percentage of the world’s population utilizing financial services is growing, up to 69% as of 2017,9 but many opportunities remain to improve access to this important tool to combat inequality. Financial services increase resiliency to financial risk and enable more household savings, leading to more spending on education and healthy food.10 Access to credit plays a similarly powerful role for low-wealth individuals who leverage it to become entrepreneurs, or in the case of the 2 billion households that depend on agriculture for income, to improve inputs and techniques for better production.11 Recent evidence suggests that access to financial services for all socioeconomic levels works to reduce overall wealth inequalities as both new entrepreneurs and wage earners benefit.12

Invest in Access to Healthcare Services

As wealth inequalities have grown, so have inequalities in access to the benefits of healthcare. The gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in the U.S. has only grown during the 2000s.13 Internationally, inequalities in health outcomes are also prevalent as gaps in both health service coverage and outcomes persist (and are even growing in some developing countries).14 Low-income individuals are less likely to have health insurance or to access to primary or specialty care, and face higher rates of morbidity, mortality, and hospitalization as a consequence.16 Poor health also acts to reinforce existing wealth disparities as it limits economic productivity and burdens households with the expenses of care.17 Expanding access to healthcare is a powerful solution to reversing these cycles of inequality.

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Invest in Access to Education

Despite widespread appreciation for the importance of education, gaps in access persist for many around the world. Current estimates put the number of children and youth who are out of school at 262 million,18 and girls are still less likely to attend than boys, especially those from the poorest households.19 More education comes with better economic opportunity, better chances at employment, and increased income.20 A recent study in the U.S. found that higher education levels among communities of color led to lower unemployment and incarceration rates, and closed the wage gap compared to the white population.21 If quality education is made more accessible, it will reduce both social and economic inequalities as more people experience its benefits.22

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SDG 10: References

3 Anke Hoeffler and James Fearon, “Conflict and Violence Assessment Paper”, Copenhagen Consensus Center, 2014
4 Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. Discrimination: State of the Union 2018. ILO. 2016. Women at Work: Trends 2016. Geneva: International Labour Office
5 Sumner, A. (2012). The New Face of Poverty: How has the Composition of Poverty in Low Income and Lower Middle Income Countries (excluding China) Changed since the 1990s?
8 The Global Findex Database 2017. Measuring Financial Inclusion and the Fintech Revolution. World Bank.
9 Ibid.
10 Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab and Initiative for Smallholder Finance
11 Inflection Point: Unlocking Growth in the Era of Farmer Finance. 2016
12 Household Access to Finance: Poverty Alleviation and Risk Mitigation. 2008. Ch3 of Finance for All? Policies and Pitfalls in Expanding Access. A World Bank Policy Research Report
13 Chetty et al. 2016. The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014. Journal of the American Medical Association
14 Progress on Global Health Goals: Are the Poor Being Left Behind? World Bank. 2014
15 Dhruv Khullar Dave A. Chokshi. 2018. Health, Income, & Poverty: Where We Are & What Could Help. Health Policy Brief. Health Affairs
16 Andersen, R. et al. 2002. Access to Medical Care for Low-Income Persons: How Do Communities Make a Difference? Medical Care Research and Review
17 Bor, Jacob; Cohen, Gregory H; Galea, Sandro. 2017. Population health in an era of rising income inequality: USA, 1980–2015. The Lancet
18 UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Global Education Database. 2017.
19 Education for All 2000-2015: achievements and challenges. EFA global monitoring report. 2015
21 Fryer, Roland G. Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination. 2010. Harvard University, EdLabs
22 Abdullah, A. et al. 2015. Does Education Reduce Income Inequality? A Meta-Regression Analysis. Journal of Economic Surveys.