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The distribution of top incomes in former British West Africa 1

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  • Anthony B Atkinson

    (NUFFIELD COLLEGE - Nuffield College - University of Oxford [Oxford], Oxford Martin School)

Abstract

This paper explores what can be learned about the upper tail of the income distribution in the British West African colonial territories, exploiting the administrative statistics on the operation of the colonial personal income tax. These statistics covering the middle of the twentieth century have definite limitations, but then little is known about the distribution of income in the colonies at that time. In historical studies of the development of the economy of Ghana (previously the Gold Coast), for example, the absence of adequate data is a constant theme: "poor statistics conspire to prevent even the roughest estimates of the overall distribution of the national income" (Killick, 1978, page 80) or "data on income distribution in Ghana are not readily available" (Huq, 1989, page 56). Writing about four countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, Phillips (later Commissioner of the Ministry of Finance in Ogun State in Nigeria), concluded that "studies of income distribution in these countries have been thin on the ground; in the few analyses that exist, size distribution has received very scant attention … in most respects, long time-series data are hard to come by" (1975, page 1).

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony B Atkinson, 2020. "The distribution of top incomes in former British West Africa 1," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-02654681, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wilwps:halshs-02654681
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-02654681
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    2. anonymous, 1989. "Reserve Bank economic forecasts," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 52, june.
    3. -, 1989. "Evolución de la economía brasileña, 1989," Informe Estadístico – Oficina de la CEPAL en Brasilia 28047, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    4. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 173-192, Spring.
    5. Ewout Frankema & Morten Jerven, 2014. "Writing history backwards or sideways: towards a consensus on African population, 1850–2010," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(4), pages 907-931, November.
    6. N/A, 1989. "Chapter 1. the Home Economy," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 127(1), pages 7-25, February.
    7. anonymous, 1989. "New Zealand economic chronology 1988," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 52, march.
    8. A. B. Atkinson, 2005. "Top incomes in the UK over the 20th century," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 325-343, March.
    9. N/A, 1989. "Chapter 1. the Home Economy," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 128(1), pages 5-19, May.
    10. N/A, 1989. "The Economic Situation," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 129(1), pages 3-5, August.
    11. N/A, 1989. "Calendar of Main Economic Events, 1988," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 127(1), pages 84-97, February.
    12. -, 1989. "International economic highlights 1988," Oficina de la CEPAL en Washington (Estudios e Investigaciones) 28923, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    13. N/A, 1989. "The Economic Situation," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 128(1), pages 3-4, May.
    14. N/A, 1989. "Chapter I. The Home Economy," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 129(1), pages 6-21, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alvaredo, Facundo & Bergeron, Augustin & Cassan, Guilhem, 2017. "Income concentration in British India, 1885–1946," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 459-469.

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    Keywords

    distribution; colonization; West Africa; top income;
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