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Overview of Trends of Economic Inequality in Portugal


Has the dispersion of earnings been increasing in recent decades?Yes, the top decile of earnings has risen sharply from 182 per cent of median in 1982 to around 252 per cent in 2000. Nevertheless, is worth noting that earnings inequality was relatively stable or even decreasing since 2000.
Has overall inequality increased in recent years?No, from 2004 to 2011 the Gini coefficient for household (equivalised) disposable income has dropped by 4 percentage points.
Have there been periods when overall inequality fell for a sustained period?Yes, during the 1970s (Carnation revolution in 1974).
Has poverty been falling or rising in recent decades?Yes, relative poverty rate fell by more than a fifth from 1994.
Has there been a U-pattern for top income shares over time?Yes, top gross income shares more than doubled between beginning of 1980s and 2003.
Has the distribution of wealth followed the same pattern as income?No evidence.
Additional noteworthy featuresDivergent movements at top (inequality increasing) and bottom (poverty falling). Strong increase in earnings dispersion from 1982 to 2000.

Sources and References

Sources for the historical data series:

Overall inequality: Gini coefficient of equivalised (modified OECD-scale) disposable household income from Rodrigues, Figueiras, and Junqueira, 2010, Quadro 4 (series 1), Quadro 6 (series 2), and Quadro 8 (series 3); the last of these is based on data from the European Community Household Panel and EU-SILC. Data from 2009 are from EU-SILC, downloaded from Eurostat website, Income and Living Conditions in Europe.

Top income shares: Share of top 1 and top 0.1 per cent in total gross income from WTID, based on work of Alvaredo (2010).

Poverty: Percentage of individuals living in households with equivalised (EU scale) disposable income below 60 per cent of the median, series 1 from Rodrigues, Figueiras and Junqueira, 2011a, Quadro 10, up to 2000, from 2002 taken from EU- SILC, Eurostat website; series 2 for 1980, 1990 and 1995 from Rodrigues (2005).

Individual earnings: Series 1 from Atkinson (2008, Appendix P, Table P.3) with updated figures supplied by C F Rodrigues (since 2002).

Wealth: no suitable data were found.


  • Alvaredo, F, 2010, “Top incomes and earnings in Portugal 1936-2005” in A B Atkinson and T Piketty, editors, Top incomes: A global perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Atkinson, A B, 2008, The changing distribution of earnings in OECD countries, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Rodrigues, C F, 2005, Distribuição do rendimento, desigualdade e pobreza, Ph D thesis, Universidade Technica de Lisboa.
  • Rodrigues, C F, Figueiras, R and Junqueira, V, 2011, Desigualdades em Portugal, Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, Lisbon.
  • Rodrigues, C F, Figueiras, R and Junqueira, V, 2011a, “Portugal: um pais profundamente desigual”, Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, Lisbon.