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Overview of Trends of Economic Inequality in Norway


Has the dispersion of earnings been increasing in recent decades?Yes, the top decile relative to the median was 8 percentage points higher in 2012 compared with early 1990s.
Has overall inequality increased in recent years?Gini coefficient in 2011 is 4 percentage points higher than in 1986.
Have there been periods when overall inequality fell for a sustained period?Incomplete evidence. Nonetheless, top income shares as well as top wealth share underwent substantial reduction over the post-war period.
Has poverty been falling or rising in recent decades?No evident trend.
Has there been a U-pattern for top income shares over time?Yes. Top gross income shares fell from 1938 to the 1980s; since 1990 have nearly doubled.
Has the distribution of wealth followed the same pattern as income?Yes, the Top wealth shares have followed similar path to top incomes.
Additional noteworthy featuresU-shape over post-war period. 2005 Gini and top shares observations were affected by the tax changes coming into effect in 2006.

Sources and References

Sources for the historical data series:

Overall inequality: Gini for disposable (non-equivalised) household income from Bojer (1987, Tabell 5); Gini coefficient of equivalised (EU scale) disposable household income from 1986 from website of Statistics Norway, Income Statistics for Households, Distribution of income, total population.

Top income shares: Share of top 1 and top 0.1 per cent in total gross income from WTID, based on work of Aaberge and Atkinson (2010) updated by Aaberge, Atkinson and Modalsli (2013).

Poverty: Percentage of individuals in households with equivalised (EU-scale) disposable income below 60 per cent (or before 1986 50 per cent) of the contemporary median (including student households), website of Statistics Norway, since 2005 from Income Statistics for Households, Particular Groups, Table 5 and from Rapporter 32/2013 by Ranjit Kaur (ed.) Tabell 3.2, 1996 to 2004 from Personal economy and housing conditions, Table 06801, linked backwards at 1994 to earlier series from Income Distribution Survey 2005, Table 5.

Individual earnings: Series 1 from Atkinson (2008, Appendix N, Table N.3), linked at 2002 to series 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 from Ohlsson, Roine and Waldenström (2008, Table 1).


  • Aaberge, R and Atkinson, A B, 2010, “Top incomes in Norway” in A B Atkinson and T Piketty, editors, Top incomes: A global perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Aaberge, R, Atkinson, A B and Modalsli, J (2013), “The ins and outs of top income mobility”, Statistics Norway Research Department Discussion Paper no 762.
  • Atkinson, A B, 2008, The changing distribution of earnings in OECD countries, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Bojer, H, 1987, “Personlig inntektsfordeling i Norge 1970-1984, Tidsskrift for Sammfunnsforskning, vol 28: 247-258.
  • Ohlsson, H, Roine, J and Waldenström, D, 2008, “Long-run changes in the concentration of wealth: An overview of recent findings”, in J B Davies, editor, Personal wealth from a global perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Roine, J 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.