Ryan Bourne debunks some of the myths concerning wealth inequality
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.