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Overview of Trends of Economic Inequality in the Netherlands


Has the dispersion of earnings been increasing in recent decades?Yes, the top decile has risen relative to median since mid-1980s. However, the evidence is incomplete.
Has overall inequality increased in recent years?No, overall inequality has been relatively stable since 1990s.
Have there been periods when overall inequality fell for a sustained period?Yes, the Gini coefficient fell from 1959 to mid-1980s.
Has poverty been falling or rising in recent decades?Insufficient evidence.
Has there been a U-pattern for top income shares over time?No. Top gross income shares declined since 1919 and remained relatively stable in recent years.
Has the distribution of wealth followed the same pattern as income?The top 1 percent share in total wealth fell for most of the twentieth century and then levelled off.
Additional noteworthy featuresLong period of falling inequality.

Sources and References

Sources for the historical data series:

Overall inequality: (supplied by Wiemer Salverda of the University of Amsterdam) Gini coefficient for equivalised (CBS scale) disposable household income by individuals for 1977 to 2009 from information supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), linked backwards at 2000 to allow for the revision to the series (the value for 2000 for the new series is 27.8 per cent and for the earlier series is 25.9 per cent); Gini coefficient for disposable income, not equivalised, among tax units, from Trimp (1996, Staat 2).

Top income shares: Shares of top 1 and 10 per cent in total gross income from WTID, based on work of Salverda and Atkinson (2007), updated by Wiemer Salverda.

Poverty: Share of bottom 20 per cent in total (not equivalised) disposable income from Sociaal-Economische Maandstatistiek 2001/04 ,Table 2.6.7, for 1995-1999, and earlier data supplied by the CBS; Percentage of individuals living in households with equivalised (EU-scale) disposable income below 60 per cent of the median from EU- SILC, Eurostat website.

Individual earnings: Series 1: from Atkinson (2008, Appendix L, Table L.3); Series 2: from OECD iLibrary, Employment and Labour Market Statistics, Gross earnings decile ratios.

Wealth: Share of top 1 per cent of households in total personal wealth from Roine and Waldenström (forthcoming), drawing on the work of Wilterdink (1984, page 269).


  • Atkinson, A B, 2008, The changing distribution of earnings in OECD countries,Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Roine, J and and Waldenström, D, forthcoming, “Long run trends in the distribution of income and wealth” in A B Atkinson and F Bourguignon, editors, Handbook of Income Distribution, volume 2, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Salverda, W and Atkinson, A B, 2007, “Top incomes in the Netherlands over the twentieth century” in A B Atkinson and T Piketty, editors, Top incomes over the twentieth century, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Trimp, L, 1996, “Inkomens 1959-1994”, Sociaal-economische maandstatistiek, vol 13, No 12: 31-34.
  • Wilterdink, N, 1984, Vermogensverhoudingen in Nederland, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam.