IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Did Belgium withstand the Storm of Rising Inequalities? Income Inequality in Belgium, 1985-2020


  • Bart Capéau
  • André Decoster
  • Bram De Rock
  • Jonas Vanderkelen


Belgium exhibits a rather constant level of income inequality during the last decades, contrary to Germany, the United States, and some Nordic countries, which all faced substantial increases in inequality. We use the available surveys from 1985 to 2020 to describe the evolution of income inequality by means of the Gini index. Earnings inequality has slightly decreased in the last two decades, at least if one takes into account the impact of the substantial increase in employment of especially older and female persons. Though the education gap in earnings is widening, the rapid increase in (mostly female) education may have a dampening effect on earnings inequality. The income surveys largely underestimate financial capital incomes. Moreover, they, by definition, do not cover undistributed profits of the corporate sector. When correcting for this, it turns out that pre-tax factor income inequality increased substantially between 2009 and 2016. The redistributive role of the welfare state through taxes has increased, while redistribution through the social security system exhibited a more irregular course. While there has been an increase in assortative matching in the last two decades, its impact on the evolution of income inequality is unclear.

Suggested Citation

  • Bart Capéau & André Decoster & Bram De Rock & Jonas Vanderkelen, 2024. "Did Belgium withstand the Storm of Rising Inequalities? Income Inequality in Belgium, 1985-2020," Working Papers ECARES 2024-05, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/370141

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Œuvre complète ou partie de l'œuvre
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeremy Lise & Shannon Seitz, 2011. "Consumption Inequality and Intra-household Allocations," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 78(1), pages 328-355.
    2. Frank A. Cowell, 1980. "On the Structure of Additive Inequality Measures," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 47(3), pages 521-531.
    3. Lambert, Peter J & Aronson, J Richard, 1993. "Inequality Decomposition Analysis and the Gini Coefficient Revisited," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1221-1227, September.
    4. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2018. "Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 133(2), pages 553-609.
    5. Pierre‐André Chiappori & Monica Costa‐Dias & Sam Crossman & Costas Meghir, 2020. "Changes in Assortative Matching and Inequality in Income: Evidence for the UK," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 41(1), pages 39-63, March.
    6. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & Georgi Kocharkov & Cezar Santos, 2014. "Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 348-353, May.
    7. Shorrocks, A F, 1982. "Inequality Decomposition by Factor Components," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 193-211, January.
    8. Browning,Martin & Chiappori,Pierre-André & Weiss,Yoram, 2014. "Economics of the Family," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521795395.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Laurens Cherchye & Bram De Rock & Khushboo Surana & Frederic Vermeulen, 2020. "Marital Matching, Economies of Scale, and Intrahousehold Allocations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 823-837, October.
    2. Iryna Kyzyma & Alessio Fusco & Philippe Van Kerm, 2022. "Distributional Change: Assessing the Contribution of Household Income Sources," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 84(1), pages 158-184, February.
    3. Cezar Santos & Michèle Tertilt, 2023. "How Families Matter for Understanding Economic Inequality," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2023_456, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    4. Sebastian Leitner, 2015. "Drivers of wealth inequality in euro area countries," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 137, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.
    5. St鰨ane Mussard & Luc Savard, 2012. "The Gini multi-decomposition and the role of Gini's transvariation: application to partial trade liberalization in the Philippines," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(10), pages 1235-1249, April.
    6. St鰨ane Mussard & Patrick Richard, 2012. "Linking Yitzhaki's and Dagum's Gini decompositions," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(23), pages 2997-3010, August.
    7. Frank A Cowell & Carlo V. Fiorio, 2006. "Rethinking Inequality Decomposition:Comment," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 82, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    8. Michele Giammatteo, 2007. "The bidimensional decomposition of inequality: A nested Theil approach," LIS Working papers 466, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    9. Teixidó Figueras, Jordi & Duro Moreno, Juan Antonio, 2012. "Ecological Footprint Inequality: A methodological review and some results," Working Papers 2072/203168, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    10. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & Karen A. Kopecky, 2019. "The Wife's Protector: A Quantitative Theory Linking Contraceptive Technology with the Decline in Marriage," Working Papers wp2019_1912, CEMFI.
    11. Arthi, Vellore & Fenske, James, 2016. "Intra-household labor allocation in colonial Nigeria," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 69-92.
    12. Ugo Bolletta & Luca Paolo Merlino, 2022. "Marriage Through Friends," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 1046-1066, December.
    13. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni Violante & Lichen Zhang, 2023. "More Unequal We Stand? Inequality Dynamics in the United States, 1967–2021," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 50, pages 235-266, October.
    14. Pérez-Mesa, David & Marrero, Gustavo A. & Darias-Curvo, Sara, 2021. "Child health inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa," MPRA Paper 108801, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Rania Gihleb & Kevin Lang, 2020. "Educational Homogamy and Assortative Mating Have Not Increased," Research in Labor Economics, in: Change at Home, in the Labor Market, and On the Job, volume 48, pages 1-26, Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
    16. Magne Mogstad, 2007. "Measuring Income Inequality under Restricted Interpersonal Comparability," Discussion Papers 498, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    17. Ana Suárez Álvarez & Ana Jesús López Menéndez, 2018. "Assessing Changes Over Time in Inequality of Opportunity: The Case of Spain," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 139(3), pages 989-1014, October.
    18. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & Harald Uhlig (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 1789-1891, Elsevier.
    19. Olivier Bargain & Guy Lacroix & Luca Tiberti, 2021. "Intrahousehold Resource Allocation and Individual Poverty: Assessing Collective Model Predictions against Direct Evidence on Sharing," Working Papers hal-03432676, HAL.
    20. Arthur Charpentier & Stéphane Mussard, 2011. "Income inequality games," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(4), pages 529-554, December.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/370141. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Benoit Pauwels (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.