The book is a concise guide to the state of economic inequalities in the UK, and intended for anyone seeking a quick and authoritative understanding of inequality in the modern era.. I discuss discuss “What We Know” about economic inequalities in the UK, presenting new analysis of the top 1% and 0.1% in the UK, and summarising the causes and consequences of high levels of inequality. I address issues such as:
- Why is curbing inequality now regarded as a global challenge?
- Why did the UK become more unequal during the 1980s?
- What has happened to incomes since the financial crash in 2008 and the government austerity that followed?
- How relevant is Thomas Piketty’s prediction that growing wealth inequalities will return us to levels of inequality last seen at the dawn of the twentieth century?
I conclude by suggesting “What We Should Do” to move the UK off its high-inequality path, with policy recommendations including tax reform, wealth redistribution and welfare reform.
Erratum. So far, I have spotted only one mistake. On p55, 3rd line down, it says “Likewise, the top 1% in 2009 had more than did the top 10% in 1979.”. This is not true, and not even slightly true.
SAGE didn’t have space for the traditional author’s acknowledgements, so here it is:
This book was written while I was supported by the ESRC through the Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) at the University of Essex and so any royalties from this publication will be donated to Shelter, the Trussell Trust, and Gingerbread, three charitable organisations (non-profits) working to tackle different aspects of poverty and inequality in the UK. I am very grateful to Alex Beer, Kate Bell, Catherine Brewer, Kirsty Brewer, Haroon Chowdry, Chris Grey, Tina Haux, Gina Hocking, Stephen Jenkins, Agnes Norris Keiller, Tara Keliher Johns, Renee Luthra, Katie Schmuecker, Holly Sutherland, Iva Tasseva, Daniel Waldenström and Tom Waters for commenting on drafts, to Torsten Bell and Adam Corlett for discussions on key issues. The Institute for Fiscal Studies kindly shared their historical data on the income distribution, and I thank Jonathan Cribb for the analysis in Figure 1.3. Lainey provided baby cuddles at key moments, Steph kept my legs working throughout despite Alina’s best efforts to wreck them, and Renee and Tina were great writing partners. Thank you to my wife and children for putting up with me, generally, and as I wrote this book. I dedicate this to CB, AB and JB with the hope that this sort of book need not be written when your generation are in charge.
You can download a pdf of the on-line Appendix, which contains more technical material on how we measure income using household surveys or administrative data from tax authorities, and how statisticians go from that to a measure of “equivalised disposable household income” from here.
A note explaining how I analysed the administrative data on top incomes from HM Revenue and Customs (known as the Survey of Personal Incomes), as well as providing actual data points, and some estimated standard errors, is available here.
If you would like access to the data points behind any of the figures, then please contact me.