Macro inequality and mobility trends, felt inequality, and the case for a healthy degree of equality of outcomes: PhD candidate Nathan Peng Li

Elderly woman selling tissue papers in the background

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The Singaporean discourse on poverty and inequality is advancing, and while he argues that Singapore has done better than most under meritocratic systems, PhD candidate Nathan Peng Li also details both causes for hope and worry. He first explains that macro-level trends of inequality and mobility have been stable in Singapore. Next, we discuss concepts of “pragmatic meritocracy” and “time two meritocracy” and how they relate to “felt inequality”.

Finally, he makes the case for “a healthy degree of equality of outcomes”. That is achieved, in his telling, when “children of lower-income families can reasonably compete against their better-off peers without the same level of private resources at their disposal”. He adds: “Outcomes must be at least equal enough that children from different backgrounds can identify with each other as members of the same society”.

Nathan is a recipient of Singapore Management University’s overseas PhD scholarship and is currently a fourth-year graduate candidate at the University of British Columbia, in the political science department.

Resources referenced in the episode:

Let’s talk about “Jom”: Singapore’s new digital magazine

  1. Let’s talk about “Jom”: Singapore’s new digital magazine
  2. "Seeking Shelter: Homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore"
  3. The future of… Finance and leaving nobody behind (with Givfunds’ and Masref’s Edward Yee)

My conversation with Nathan is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore ( The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.

Click here to listen to the episode.

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