Wealth inequality: the facts


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Ryan Bourne debunks some of the myths concerning wealth inequality inequality briefing formatted.pdf

Interest in the subject of wealth inequality has been stimulated by the recent work of economist Thomas Piketty in his best-selling book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, with the charity Oxfam having also been very vocal about this issue through their ‘Level it Up’ campaign. This briefing paper looks at data on wealth inequality from the Office for National Statistics, Thomas Piketty’s dataset and the Credit Suisse dataset frequently cited by Oxfam.

It is certainly true that wealth tends to be more unevenly distributed than income (a fact true across all major countries), but the way that this subject is discussed is often misleading.

Wealth inequality is low in the UK by historical standards, has not been rising rapidly in the UK in recent years, or indeed over the past generation, and is actually lower than in most other developed countries. There remains a debate about the true level of inequality of wealth in the UK, but the trends do not conform to the story of unprecedented or exploding inequality that are frequently implied in the media.

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Head of Public Policy and Director, Paragon Initiative

Ryan Bourne is Head of Public Policy at the IEA and Director of The Paragon Initiative. Ryan was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge where he achieved a double-first in Economics at undergraduate level and later an MPhil qualification. Prior to joining the IEA, Ryan worked for a year at the economic consultancy firm Frontier Economics on competition and public policy issues. After leaving Frontier in 2010, Ryan joined the Centre for Policy Studies think tank in Westminster, first as an Economics Researcher and subsequently as Head of Economic Research. There, he was responsible for writing, editing and commissioning economic reports across a broad range of areas, as well as organisation of economic-themed events and roundtables. Ryan appears regularly in the national media, including writing for The Times, the Daily Telegraph, ConservativeHome and Spectator Coffee House, and appearing on broadcast, including BBC News, Newsnight, Sky News, Jeff Randall Live, Reuters and LBC radio. He is currently a weekly columnist for CityAM.