Income Inequality

The Gap between Rich and Poor

image of Income Inequality

Income inequality is rising. A quarter of a century ago, the average disposable income of the richest 10% in OECD countries was around seven times higher than that of the poorest 10%; today, it’s around 9½ times higher. Why does this matter? Many fear this widening gap is hurting individuals, societies and even economies. This book explores income inequality across five main headings. It starts by explaining some key terms in the inequality debate. It then examines recent trends and explains why income inequality varies between countries. Next it looks at why income gaps are growing and, in particular, at the rise of the 1%. It then looks at the consequences, including research that suggests widening inequality could hurt economic growth. Finally, it examines policies for addressing inequality and making economies more inclusive.

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Inequality is bad and getting worse. In the 1980s, the richest 10% of the population in OECD countries earned 7 times more than the poorest 10%. They now earn nearly ten times more. When you include property and other forms of wealth, the situation is even worse: in 2012, the richest 10% controlled half of all total household wealth and the wealthiest 1% held 18%, compared to only 3% for the poorest 40%.

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