Author | Editor: Kuznar, L. (NSI, Inc.)
Five datasets on wealth and status distribution in Iran were analyzed: 2017 World Bank quintile and decile estimates of income, and Iranian government income data for years 2015 and 2006 for both urban and rural populations.
Iran has moderate levels of inequality compared to most countries, although inequality is gradually increasing and there is growing concentration of wealth in cities and a corresponding impoverishment in the countryside. Inequality is exacerbated by sanctions.
Significance for Risk Taking and Stability
In general, Iran exhibits moderate levels of risk acceptance, although losses in the business sector are beginning to result in riots and demonstrations which culminated in 2018. While inequality appears to be fueling unrest, the Iranian government has a strong capacity for suppression of dissent.
Implications for US Interests
Social unrest weakens the Iranian government, potentially distracting it from its regional objectives and US sanctions are exacerbating this unrest. However, the Iranian population is overall not very risk acceptant and the Iranian state’s capacity for repression probably means that dissent will not really weaken the Iranian state. There is no evidence that Iran has been distracted in its regional activities, including operations in Syria, Yemen, and the Persian Gulf.
Implications for China’s Interests
Iran is an important node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China has been investing heavily in Iranian infrastructure. Inequality and social unrest threaten these investments.
Implications for Russia’s Interests
Iran is Russia’s key ally in the Middle East for countering US influence. Inequality and social unrest that can weaken the Iranian government would be problematic for Russian interests in the region.