Inequality in the UK

Inequality in the UK

Inequality in the UK

Inequality in the UK


Income inequality has risen in the UK, but why? This study describes the trend in inequality since the 1960s and shows how it has been driven by a combination of social changes, economic upheavals, and government policies on taxes and benefits.


How well off am I relative to my peers? How poor are the poor? How much better off are the rich now compared with twenty years ago? Is the gap between rich and poor growing?

Such questions are common currency in the political discourse. They are central to the recurring debates over tax policy and the effects of budgetary announcements. On the answers to such questions depends any intelligent analysis of the scope and structure of the welfare state. It is the purpose of this book to set out comprehensive answers to these questions and many more by analysing the distribution of income, and also of spending. It describes the distributions, how they are generated, and how and why they have changed.

We introduce the discussion by considering some of the reasons for thinking that the distributions of income and spending might matter and some of the reasons for the writing of this volume. We then give the briefest of indications of the contents of the ten chapters that constitute the central part of this work.


The way in which income and spending are distributed among individuals matters for all sorts of reasons. It matters for politics, for understanding political processes and outcomes. It matters in informing the policy decisions of politicians and other policymakers, obviously in the fields of tax and social security, but also for health, education, and urban policy. It matters to economists in understanding how the economy works at both the micro and macro levels.

If J. K. Galbraith is to be believed, then the existence of an adequately large group who are comfortably off might be a sufficient condition for the continued existence and success of a political agenda that neglects the interests of a (substantial) minority who are far from . . .

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