The Economist: Inequality Street
Income inequality is rising in rich countries
THE gap between rich and poor has grown ever wider in wealthy countries over the past three decades. A new report by the OECD has reams of data on this phenomenon and is well worth looking at. The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality in which zero corresponds to everyone having the same income and one means the richest person has all the income, increased by almost 10% from 0.29 in 1985 to 0.32 in 2008, for working-age people in OECD countries. The trend is caused by earnings: the pay of the richest 10% of employees has increased at a far greater rate than that of the poorest 10% of employees. Within the upper echelons, the top 1% have reaped the greatest gains. Technology has disproportionately benefited high-earning workers, who also spend far longer at work than do low-earners. High earners marry other high earners. And governments are doing less to redistribute wealth than they have done in the past. So far, so familiar. But the report also argues that globalisation is not a significant cause of inequality, and that one of the many reasons for the rise in income inequality is that more people are in work now (or at least they were before the financial crisis hit) compared with the 1970s.