The Broken Ladder by Keith Payne
How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 1 Critic Review

Though the author doesn’t break much new ground, he provides valuable psychological insights into our daily behaviors.


A timely examination by a leading scientist of the physical, psychological, and moral effects of inequality.
Today’s inequality is on a scale that none of us has seen in our lifetimes, yet this disparity between rich and poor has ramifications that extend far beyond mere financial means. In The Broken Ladder psychologist Keith Payne examines how inequality divides us not just economically, but has profound consequences for how we think, how our cardiovascular systems respond to stress, how our immune systems function, and how we view moral ideas like justice and fairness. Experiments in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics have not only revealed important new insights on how inequality changes people in predictable ways, but have provided a corrective to our flawed way of viewing poverty as the result of individual character failings. Among modern, developed societies, economic inequality is not primarily about money, but rather about relative status: where we stand in relation to other people. Regardless of their average income, countries or states with greater levels of income inequality have much higher rates of all the social problems we associate with poverty, including lower average life expectancies, serious health issues, mental illness, and crime.
The Broken Ladder explores such issues as why women in poor societies often have more children, and have them younger; why there is little trust among the working class that investing for the future will pay off; why people’s perception of their relative social status affects their political beliefs, and why growing inequality leads to greater political divisions; how poverty raises stress levels in the same way as a physical threat; inequality in the workplace, and how it affects performance; why unequal societies become more religious; and finally offers measures people can take to lessen the harm done by inequality in their own lives and the lives of their children.

About Keith Payne

See more books from this Author
Keith Payne is a Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an international leader in the psychology of inequality and discrimination, he has published more than sixty articles and book chapters. His work has been covered in popular media from NPR to The Huffington Post to Ladies’ Home Journal. In addition to his academic publications, he has written for general audiences in Scientific American and Psychology Today. He was ranked among the most highly cited social psychology researchers in America by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. He received his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.
Author Residence: Chapel Hill, NC
Author Hometown: Maceo, Kentucky
Published May 2, 2017 by Viking. 252 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Broken Ladder
All: 1 | Positive: 0 | Negative: 1


Above average
on Mar 15 2017

Though the author doesn’t break much new ground, he provides valuable psychological insights into our daily behaviors.

Read Full Review of The Broken Ladder: How Inequa... | See more reviews from Kirkus