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Income Inequality in the European Union

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  • Kaja Bonesmo Fredriksen

    (OECD)

Abstract

Poor growth performance over the past decades in Europe has increased concerns for rising income dispersion and social exclusion. European authorities have recently launched the Europe 2020 strategy which aims to improve social inclusion in Europe on top of already existing European regional policies aiming to reduce regional disparities through stimulating growth in areas where incomes are relatively low. While it is most common to confine measures of inequality to national borders, the existence of such union-wide objectives and policies motivates measuring income dispersion among all Europeans in this paper. Towards the end of the 2000s the income distribution in Europe was more unequal than in the average OECD country, albeit notably less so than in the United States. It is the within-country, not the between-country dimension, which appears to be most important. Inequality in Europe has risen quite substantially since the mid 1980s. While the EU enlargement process has contributed to this, it is not the only explanation since inequality has also increased within a “core” of 8 European countries. Large income gains among the 10% top earners appear to be a main driver behind this evolution. L'inégalité des revenus dans l'Union européenne La faible croissance en Europe au cours des dernières décennies a augmenté les inquiétudes concernant la répartition des revenus et l’exclusion sociale. Les autorités européennes ont récemment lancé la stratégie Europe 2020 qui vise à améliorer l’insertion sociale en Europe en plaçant cet objectif au dessus des politiques régionales européennes déjà existantes afin de réduire les disparités régionales en stimulant la croissance dans les zones où les revenus sont relativement bas. Alors que l’inégalité est, le plus fréquemment, mesurée par pays, le fait de mettre en place des objectifs et des politiques à l’échelle européenne explique pourquoi ce rapport traite de l’inégalité des revenus entre tous les Européens. Vers la fin des années 2000, la distribution des revenus en Europe était plus inégalitaire que la moyenne de la zone de l’OCDE mais beaucoup moins qu’aux États-Unis. Ce sont les inégalités à l’intérieur des pays et non entre pays qui semblent le plus importantes. L’inégalité en Europe a sensiblement augmenté depuis la moitié des années 80. Même si l’élargissement a contribué à cette hausse, ce n’est pas la seule explication puisque l’inégalité a aussi augmenté au sein d’un groupe de 8 pays faisant parti de l’Union sur toute la période considérée. D’importants gains de revenus pour les 10% les mieux rémunérés apparaissent comme étant la raison principale de cette évolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Kaja Bonesmo Fredriksen, 2012. "Income Inequality in the European Union," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 952, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:952-en
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k9bdt47q5zt-en
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Isabelle Joumard & Mauro Pisu & Debra Bloch, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are They Compatible? Part 3. Income Redistribution via Taxes and Transfers Across OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 926, OECD Publishing.
    2. Andrés Rodríguez-Pose & Vassilis Tselios, 2009. "Mapping Regional Personal Income Distribution in Western Europe: Income Per Capita and Inequality," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 59(1), pages 41-70, January.
    3. Robert J. Gordon & Ian Dew-Becker, 2008. "Controversies about the Rise of American Inequality: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 13982, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Peter Hoeller, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are they Compatible? Part 4. Top Incomes," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 927, OECD Publishing.
    5. George Deltas, 2003. "The Small-Sample Bias of the Gini Coefficient: Results and Implications for Empirical Research," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(1), pages 226-234, February.
    6. Isabell Koske & Jean-Marc Fournier & Isabelle Wanner, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are They Compatible? Part 2. The Distribution of Labour Income," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 925, OECD Publishing.
    7. Adam Szulc, 2006. "POVERTY IN POLAND DURING THE 1990s: ARE THE RESULTS ROBUST?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(3), pages 423-448, September.
    8. Caminada, Koen & Goudswaard, Kees, 1999. "Social policy and income distribution: An empirical analysis for the Netherlands," MPRA Paper 20183, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Andrea Brandolini, 2006. "Measurement of Income Distribution in Supranational Entities: The Case of the European Union," LIS Working papers 452, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lorenzo Cicatiello & Salvatore Ercolano & Giuseppe Gaeta, 2015. "Income distribution and political participation: a multilevel analysis," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 447-479, May.
    2. Mauro Mussini, 2017. "Decomposing Changes in Inequality and Welfare Between EU Regions: The Roles of Population Change, Re-Ranking and Income Growth," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(2), pages 455-478, January.
    3. Wang, Jinxian & Caminada, Koen & Goudswaard, Kees & Wang, Chen, 2015. "Decomposing income polarization and tax-benefit changes across 31 European countries and Europe wide, 2004-2012," MPRA Paper 66155, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    convergence; convergence; European Union; Gini; Gini coefficient; hauts revenus; income inequality; inégalité des revenus; redistribution; redistribution; top incomes; Union européenne;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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