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Income concentration in British India, 1885–1946


  • Facundo Alvaredo

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, University of Oxford [Oxford], CONICET - Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas [Buenos Aires])

  • Augustin Bergeron

    (Harvard University)

  • Guilhem Cassan

    (University of Namur)


We use a novel income tax data set to present evidence on the evolution of income concentration in the last 60 years of colonial rule in India. These data allow us to study the evolution of income concentration at the country level as well as the location of top income earners across provinces. We identify three key facts: (1) the evolution of income concentration in British India was nonlinear, following a U-shape, (2) the majority of top income earners were non-Europeans, and (3) the geographical location of top income earners changed over time with the province of Bombay gaining in importance in the early XXth century. We provide an interpretation of these results in the light of the economic and political changes in British India over the period.

Suggested Citation

  • Facundo Alvaredo & Augustin Bergeron & Guilhem Cassan, 2017. "Income concentration in British India, 1885–1946," Post-Print hal-01626656, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-01626656
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2017.01.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Atkinson, A.B., 2014. "The colonial legacy: Income inequality in former British African colonies," WIDER Working Paper Series 045, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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    Cited by:

    1. Chancel, Lucas & Piketty, Thomas, 2017. "Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj ?," CEPR Discussion Papers 12409, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item


    India; Top incomes; Colonization; Inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution


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