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The challenge of measuring UK wealth inequality in the 2000s


  • Alvaredo, Facundo
  • Atkinson, Tony
  • Morelli, Salvatore


The concentration of personal wealth is now receiving a great deal of attention – after having been neglected for many years. One reason is the growing recognition that, in seeking explanations for rising income inequality, we need to look not only at wages and earned income but also at income from capital, particularly at the top of the distribution. In this paper, we use evidence from existing data sources to attempt to answer three questions: (i) what is the share of total personal wealth that is owned by the top 1 per cent, or the top 0.1 per cent? (ii) is wealth much more unequally distributed than income? (iii) is the concentration of wealth at the top increasing over time? The main conclusion of the paper is that the evidence about the UK concentration of wealth post-2000 is seriously incomplete and significant investment is necessary if we are to provide satisfactory answers to the three questions.

Suggested Citation

  • Alvaredo, Facundo & Atkinson, Tony & Morelli, Salvatore, 2015. "The challenge of measuring UK wealth inequality in the 2000s," CEPR Discussion Papers 10810, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10810

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. B. Atkinson & A. J. Harrison, 1974. "Wealth Distribution And Investment Income In Britain," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 20(2), pages 125-142, June.
    2. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2015. "What Do We Know about the Evolution of Top Wealth Shares in the United States?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(1), pages 47-66, Winter.
    3. anonymous, 1979. "Monetary policy report to Congress," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Aug, pages 591-602.
    4. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Unknown, 1979. "Annual Report on Tobacco Statistics, 1978," Statistical Bulletin 154338, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. Saez, Emmanuel & Zucman, Gabriel, 2014. "Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 10227, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence From Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 445-487, June.
    8. Atkinson, A B & Harrison, A J, 1974. "Wealth Distribution and Investment Income in Britain," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 20(2), pages 125-142, June.
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    Blog mentions

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    1. The challenge of measuring UK wealth inequality in the 2000s
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2016-07-27 23:04:01


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    Cited by:

    1. Anastasios Evgenidis & Apostolos Fasianos, 2019. "Monetary Policy and Wealth Inequalities in Great Britain: Assessing the role of unconventional policies for a decade of household data," Papers 1912.09702,
    2. Nora Lustig, 2018. "Measuring the Distribution of Household Income, Consumption and Wealth: State of Play and Measurement Challenges," Working Papers 1801, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. Poterba, James & Venti, Steven & Wise, David A., 2018. "Longitudinal determinants of end-of-life wealth inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 78-88.
    4. Alvaredo, Facundo & Atkinson, Anthony B. & Morelli, Salvatore, 2018. "Top wealth shares in the UK over more than a century," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 26-47.
    5. Facundo Alvaredo & Lucas Chancel & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2017. "Global Inequality Dynamics: New Findings from," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 404-409, May.
    6. Aroop Chatterjee, 2019. "Measuring wealth inequality in South Africa: An agenda," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-45, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Obolenskaya, Polina & Hills, John, 2019. "Flat-lining or seething beneath the surface?: two decades of changing economic inequality in the UK," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 101128, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Nora Lustig, 2019. "The “Missing Rich” in Household Surveys: Causes and Correction Approaches," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 75, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    9. Antoine BozioBy & Carl Emmerson & Cormac O’Dea & Gemma Tetlow, 2017. "Do the rich save more? Evidence from linked survey and administrative data," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 1101-1119.
    10. James B. Davies & Rodrigo Lluberas & Anthony F. Shorrocks, 2017. "Estimating the Level and Distribution of Global Wealth, 2000–2014," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 63(4), pages 731-759, December.
    11. Miqdad Asaria & Susan Griffin & Richard Cookson, 2013. "Distributional cost-effectiveness analysis: a tutorial," Working Papers 092cherp, Centre for Health Economics, University of York.
    12. Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Global Wealth Inequality," NBER Working Papers 25462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Cyrille Schwellnus & Andreas Kappeler & Pierre-Alain Pionnier, 2017. "The Decoupling of Median Wages from Productivity in OECD Countries," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 32, pages 44-60, Spring.
    14. Nora Lustig, 2020. "The ``missing rich'' in household surveys: causes and correction approaches," Working Papers 520, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    15. , Stone Center & Lustig, Nora, 2020. "The “Missing Rich” in Household Surveys: Causes and Correction Approaches," SocArXiv j23pn, Center for Open Science.

    More about this item


    inequality; United Kingdom; wealth;

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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