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Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe

In: Handbook of Income Distribution


  • Morrisson, Christian


The evolution of income distribution over two centuries is an attractive topic because it allows one to test the inverse U-curve hypothesis using long series instead of cross-section data. In Section 1 the distribution trends in countries where global data are available, is considered, that is in four Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, the German states and Germany, and in France. The inverse U-curve hypothesis is verified in four of them. Section 2 presents in a consistent framework, using the Theil indicator, all available information on inequality trends between agricultural and nonagricultural sectors and on inequality trends within each sector in European countries. Finally Section 3 throws light on the political and economic factors explaining the long-term evolution of distribution. The economic factors playing a key role are the market structures, the diffusion of education and saving, and dualism.

Suggested Citation

  • Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:incchp:1-04

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    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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