How do inequalities intersect?

Disparities of income and wealth are only one kind of inequality among many, including inequalities of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, region, physical ability and immigrant status.

Often, these inequalities overlap, combine, and reinforce each other. In other words, they intersect.

For instance, ‘blue-collar’ or manual workers may, in a given country, be typically paid less than ‘white collar’ or office workers. This is a common form of income inequality. However, even within occupations deemed ‘manual’ there may be disparities. In New Zealand, the courts have found that occupations like aged care have been underpaid specifically because they are dominated by women. Inequalities of socio-economic status and gender intersect.

These intersecting inequalities can create complex relationships. A female lawyer, for instance, may be paid less than her male counterpart. However, she will be better paid than, say, a male forestry worker. (Although the latter is less likely to experience gender-based violence.)

Although in specific situations, one form of inequality may affect an individual’s life, or a community, more than others, in general there is nothing to be gained by saying that a particular type of inequality is more “important” than another. All forms of inequality matter, and deserve careful attention.