About this Website

Authors and Supporting Institutions

The data for this website and publication are published as Atkinson, Hasell, Morelli, and Roser (2017), “The Chartbook of Economic Inequality”.

  • Anthony B. Atkinson, 1944-2017, was Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.
  • Joe Hasell is a Research Assistant at the Department for Economics and Statistics, University of Naples, Federico II.
  • Salvatore Morelli, is “Guido Cazzavillan” Fellow and Visiting scholar at the Institute for New Economic Thinking – Oxford and Oxford Martin School – University of Oxford.
  • Max Roser is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a Project Director at the Oxford Martin School at the Univerity of Oxford.

Support from the following institutions is gratefully acknowledged: Programme for Economic Modelling · Programme on Employment, Equity, and Growth (EEG)Institute for New Economic Thinking – Oxford · Oxford Martin School; “Guido Cazzavillan” FellowshipUniversity of Venice, Ca’ Foscari.

Tony Atkinson sadly passed away in January 2017, before the new version of the work was finalized. Tony was the primary driver of this project which would not exist without his commitment, passion, and contribution. This website is dedicated to him.


The purpose of this Chartbook is to present a summary of evidence about long-run changes in five different dimensions of economic inequality for 25 countries covering more than one hundred years. The evidence represents an update of the work done by Atkinson and Morelli (2014). There is a range of countries and they account for more than a third of the world’s population: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The results are presented in 25 charts, one for each country, together with a description of the sources. The underlying figures and the full replication files are available for download.

We aim to provide for each country five indicators covering on an annual basis:

  1. Overall income inequality
  2. Top income shares
  3. Income (or consumption) based poverty measures;
  4. Dispersion of individual earnings;
  5. Top wealth shares/ wealth inequality measures.

This is ambitious and our charts fall a long way short of being complete, as is illustrated in Table 1, which shows the dates at which, for each country, the five indicators commence. In

the past, more evidence was available about the upper part of the distribution, and our indicators cover the top income shares more fully. For the other indicators, coverage is more limited. In only five of the twenty five countries do the data on overall inequality start before In many cases data are not always available for every year and there are gaps in the series. These are joined within the graphs but it is worth noting that this may well miss important year-to-year variations. In some cases, particularly for wealth, we have located no time series at all.

Our emphasis is on change over time. We have therefore concentrated on comparability over time, and for this reason presented the evidence country by country.

Permission to use this work

All data is made freely accessible for everyone to use on this web site. Full replication files are also available on the web site.

All visualisations in this document and on the web publication are licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA license. This means that everyone is free to share these visuals (i.e. copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format) and to adapt these visuals (i.e. remix, transform, and build upon our material). This includes all purposes and also commercial uses.

These permissions are given under the following terms:

  • •Attribution – BY — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. •
  • ShareAlike – SA — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. The license is accessible at creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/


The sources are described for each country on the page following the chart. We have tried in all cases to check the figures against the original sources. The importance of such checking may be illustrated by reference to South Africa. In seeking data on the overall distribution, we had identified a series for the Gini coefficient covering the years from 1960 to 1987 in the World Income Inequality Database (WIID). Given the problems of securing long-term distributional data for that country, this appeared too good to be true. This proved to be the case. Investigation of the original source (Lachmann and Bercuson, 1992, Table 2) revealed that the title was “Gini coefficients assuming income equality within racial groups”. The data showed the differences between races, which is an important part, but only part, of the story. These data do not measure overall inequality and are not used here.

In this exercise, we have made use of valuable building blocks. In particular the studies of top incomes, largely resulting from the project organised by Atkinson and Piketty (2007 and 2010), provide an anchor for the empirical analysis of top shares. This project gave rise to the World Top Incomes Database subsequently subsumed into the World Wealth and Income Database (referred to below as ‘WTID’ and ‘WID.world’ respectively). But we wish also to cover, as far as possible, the distribution as a whole, and to follow what happens to poverty as well as riches. The series that we present therefore show not only top income shares but also measures of overall inequality and measures of low incomes. Here we are able to draw on the collection of historical data assembled over the years by Atkinson and Brandolini (see for example, Brandolini, 2002).

The general sources on which we have drawn are:

  • (a) Atkinson, A B, 2008, The changing distribution of earnings in OECD countries, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • (b) Atkinson, A B and Piketty, T, editors, 2007, Top incomes over the twentieth century, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • (c) Atkinson, A B and Piketty, T, editors, 2010, Top incomes: a global perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • (d) Brandolini, A, 2002, “A bird’s eye view of long-run changes in income inequality”, Bank of Italy Research Department, Rome.
  • (e) Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Key Figures, downloaded from LIS website. In June 2016, the Key Figures covered 47 countries, including 19 of those covered by this Chartbook: http://www.lisdatacenter.org/data-access/key-figures/inequality-andpoverty/
  • (f) World Top Income Database (WTID), by F Alvaredo, A B. Atkinson, T Piketty, and E Saez. Online between January 2011 and November 2015.
  • (g) World Wealth and Income Database (WID.world), created by F Alvaredo, A B Atkinson, T Piketty, E Saez and G Zucman, http://www.wid.world. The database and the project (managed also with the contribution of Lucas Chancel) is the expansion of a previous version publicly known as World Top Income Database.
  • (h) OECD iLibrary, Employment and Labour Market Statistics, Gross earnings decile ratios http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/employment/data/earnings_lfs-ear-data-en
  • (i) Eurostat data based on EU-SILC (Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-datasets/-/ilc_di12

Table 1 – Coverage of data (first year of data)

CountryOverall inequalityTop income sharesPovertyEarningsWealth
Finland19201920197119711909 ( 1800 )
France19561900197019501902 ( 1807 )
Germany19621900 (1891)196219491973
Italy1901 (1861)1974197719731989
Japan19231900 (1886)198519511983
Netherlands19591914199419771905 ( 1894 )
New Zealand19581921198219581956
Norway1900 ( 1875)1900 (1875)198619861912 ( 1789 )
South Africa1975191420061997-
Sweden19511903197519751908 ( 1800 )
UK19381908196119541900 ( 1895 )

Note: In a few cases the actual initial year of the series (within the original sources) precedes the year 1900 and this is indicated within the table in italics and parenthesis. Series are not always continuous.