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Overview of Trends of Economic Inequality in France


Has the dispersion of earnings been increasing in recent decades?No, earnings dispersion shows no apparent trend.
Has overall inequality increased in recent years?No, Gini coefficient relatively stable since 1990s.
Have there been periods when overall inequality fell for a sustained period?Yes, overall inequality (as well as wealth inequality and poverty) fell from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Has poverty been falling or rising in recent decades?Fell from 1970 to 2000.
Has there been a U-pattern for top income shares over time?No, top gross income shares fell from 1916 to 1945 and then stable over post-war period.
Has the distribution of wealth followed the same pattern as income?Yes, top wealth share fell in post-war period while little change in top income shares.
Additional noteworthy featuresOverall stability of inequality in recent years.

Sources and References

Sources for the historical data series:

Overall inequality: Gini coefficient of equivalised (modified OECD scale) disposable household income from website of INSEE, Revenus-Salaires/Niveau de vie et indicateurs de l’inégalité from 2006 , earlier figures from Godefroy et al (2010, Table 1), here linked at 2005, and Legendre (2004, Table 2), linked backwards at 1970 to series on gross income (excluding certain categories of income) from Concialdi (1997, Table 11.11).

Top income shares: Share of top 1 per cent in total gross income from WTID, based on work of Piketty (2001 and 2003) and Landais (2007).

Poverty: Percentage of individuals living in households with equivalised (EU scale) disposable income below 60 per cent of the median (urban France) from website of INSEE, Revenus-Salaires/Pauvreté.

Individual earnings: From website of INSEE, Revenus-Salaires, Distributions des revenus salariaux for 2002-2009, earlier from DADS exploitation exhaustive de 1950 à 2006 (estimations for 1981, 1983 and 1990).

Wealth: Share of top 1 per cent in total estates at death from Piketty, Postel-Vinay and Rosenthal (2004, Table A7).


  • Concialdi, P, 1997, “Income distribution in France : The mid-1980s turning point” in P Gottschalk, B Gustafssson and E Palmer, editors, Changing patterns in the distribution of economic welfare: An international perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Godefroy, P, Pujol, J, Raynaud, E and Tomasini, M, 2010, “Inégalités de niveau de vie et mesures de la pauvreté en 2006”, INSEE website.
  • Landais, C, 2007, “Les hauts revenus en France 1998-2006: Une explosion des inégalités?”, Paris School of Economics Working Paper.
  • Legendre, N, 1997, “Evolution des niveaux de vie de 1996 à 2001”, INSEE Première 947, Paris.
  • Piketty, T, 2001, Les hauts revenus en France au 20ème siècle, Grasset, Paris. Piketty, T, 2003, “Income inequality in France, 1901-1994”, Journal of Political Economy, vol 111: 1004-1042.
  • Piketty, T, Postel-Vinay, G and Rosenthal, J-L, 2004, “Wealth concentration in a developing economy: Paris and France, 1807-1994”, CEPR Working Paper 4631, Centre for Economic Policy Research, London.