Natural selection has provided mothers with an early warning system, one that can alert them to danger before others are even aware of the risk. After all, humans have the ability to make conscious choices and design political systems that protect the least among us. Haven’t we improved on the harsh conditions faced by our distant monkey cousins? The answer to this couldn’t be more clear: humans are very different from macaques. We’re much worse. The anxiety caused by human inequality is unlike anything observed in the natural world. In order to emphasize this point, Robert Sapolsky put all kidding aside and was uncharacteristically grim when describing the effects of human poverty on the incidence of stress-related disease. “When humans invented poverty,” Sapolsky wrote, “they came up with a way of subjugating the low-ranking like nothing ever before seen in the primate world.” This is clearly documented in studies looking at human inequality and the rates of maternal infanticide. The World Health Organization Report on Violence and Health reported a strong association between global inequality and child abuse, with the largest incidence in communities with “high levels of unemployment and concentrated poverty.” According to these researchers, inequality is literally killing our kids.
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