Social policies and data

Income Inequality and Poverty


There is widespread concern that economic growth has not been fairly shared, and that the economic crisis has only widened the gap between rich and poor.

The OECD examines the trends and patterns in inequality and poverty for OECD and emerging countries. Its work analyses the multiple causes linked to growing inequalities, such as globalisation, technological change and changes in redistribution and policy fashion. It also assesses the effectiveness of social and labour market policies in tackling poverty and high inequalities.




Under pressure: the squeezed middle classThis report sheds light on the multiple pressures on the middle class. It analyses the trends of middle-income households through dimensions such as labour occupation, consumption, wealth and debt, as well as perceptions and social attitudes. It also discusses policy initiatives to address the concerns raised by the middle class, by protecting middle-class living standards and financial security in the face of economic challenges.


This report provides new evidence on social mobility in the context of increased inequalities of income and opportunities in OECD and selected emerging economies. It covers the aspects of both, social mobility between parents and children and of personal income mobility over the life course, and their drivers. The report shows that there is space for policies to make societies more mobile and protect households from adverse income shocks. It discusses the options and measures that policy-makers can consider how to improve social mobility across and within generations.‌‌


  • November 2016: OECD Inequality Update 2016 "Income inequality remains high in the face of weak recovery"

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I‌n October 2015, the OECD Launched the OECD Centre for Opportunity and Equality, a new platform for promoting and conducting policy-oriented research on the trends, causes and consequences of inequalities in society and the economy, and a forum to discuss how policies can best address such inequalities. 


The long-run increase in income inequality not only raises social and political concerns, but also economic ones. It tends to drag down GDP growth, due to the rising distance of the lower 40% from the rest of society. Lower income people have been prevented from realising their human capital potential, which is bad for the economy as a whole.This book highlights the key areas where inequalities are created and where new policies are required, including persisting gender gaps; the challenge of high wealth concentration, and the role for redistribution policies, among others.




Data on income inequality and poverty

OECD Income Distribution Database

To benchmark and monitor income inequality and poverty across countries, the OECD relies on a dedicated statistical database: the OECD Income Distribution Database. Due to the increasing importance of income inequality and poverty issues in policy discussion, the database is now annually updated.

Dynamic figures

  • Income inequality: Income is defined as household disposable income in a particular year. It consists of earnings, self-employment and capital income and public cash transfers; income taxes and social security contributions paid by households are deducted. Income inequality is measured by five indicators, such as the Gini coefficient and S90/S10, among others.
  • Poverty rate: The poverty rate is the ratio of the number of people (in a given age group) whose income falls below the poverty line; taken as half the median household income of the total population.

"Compare Your Income'' web tool

What's your perception of income inequality? The OECD Compare your income tool allows you to see whether your perception is in line with reality. In only a few clicks, you can see where you fit in your country's income distribution. In June 2020, an updated edition was released to explore how people’s perceptions of inequality impact their willingness to support redistribution and to see what areas users would prioritise for public spending.



See here for a full list of our related publications and other material on income distribution and poverty.



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