Social policies and data

Publications and related documents on Income Inequality and Poverty


Latest documents


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

June 2015:

December 2014:

June 2014: Income Inequality Update Rising Inequality: Youth and poor fall further behind (8-pages .pdf report)

"Inclusive growth: The way forward for the US" - opening remarks by OECD Secretary-General at the Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Crisis squeezes income and puts pressure on inequality and poverty in the OECD (Spring 2013)





Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class // Sous pression : la classe moyenne en perte de vitesse (April 2019)

Middle-class households feel left behind and have questioned the benefits of economic globalisation. In many OECD countries, middle incomes have grown less than the average and in some they have not grown at all. The costs of some goods and services such as housing, which are essential for a middle-class lifestyle, have risen faster than earnings and overall inflation.  This report sheds light on the multiple pressures on the middle class. 

A Broken Social Elevator? How to Promote Social Mobility //  L'ascenseur social en panne ? Comment promouvoir la mobilité sociale (2018)

This report provides new evidence on social mobility in the context of increased inequalities of income and opportunities in OECD and selected emerging economies. There is in particular a lack of mobility at the bottom and at the top of the social ladder – with “sticky floors” preventing upward mobility for many and “sticky ceilings” associated with opportunity hoarding at the top. The lack of social mobility has economic, societal and political consequences. This report shows that there is space for policies to make societies more mobile and protect households from adverse income shocks. 

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In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All // Tous concernés: Pourquoi moins d’inégalité profite à tous (2015)

The gap between rich and poor keeps widening. Growth, if any, has disproportionally benefited higher income groups while lower income households have been left behind. This long-run increase in income inequality not only raises social and political concerns, but also economic ones.

Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising // Toujours plus d'inégalité : Pourquoi les écarts de revenus se creusent
(December 2011)
In the three decades prior to the recent economic downturn, wage gaps widened and household income inequality increased in a large majority of OECD countries. This occurred even when countries were going through a period of sustained economic and employment growth. 

Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries // Croissance et inégalités : Distribution des revenus et pauvreté dans les pays de l’OCDE
(October 2008)
Growing Unequal? brings together a range of analyses on the distribution of economic resources in OECD countries. The evidence on income distribution and poverty covers, for the first time, all 30 OECD countries in the mid-2000s, while information on trends extending back to the mid-1980s is provided for around two-thirds of the countries.

Income Distribution in OECD countries (1995)

This study (from 1995) compares income distribution in OECD countries in terms of its dispersion between households on a standardised basis.


OECD Working Papers

Nowcasting and provisional estimates of income inequality using microsimulation techniques
(February 2023)

Redistribution from a joint income-wealth perspective 
(January 2021)

Promoting Social Mobility in Austria
(December 2020)

Job polarisation and the middle class
(July 2019)

Trends in Top Incomes and their Taxation in OECD Countries 
(May 2014)

Trends in poverty and inequality in decentralising Indonesia
(July 2013)

Redistribution Policy in Europe and the United States: Is the Great Recession a 'Game Changer' for working-age families?
(June 2013)

Money or Kindergarten? Distributive Effects of Cash Versus In-Kind Family Transfers for Young Children
(September 2012)

Income Distribution and Poverty in Russia
(April 2012)

The Impact of Publicly Provided Services on the Distribution of Resources: Review of New Results and Methods
(January 2012)

Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid

Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries in the second half of the 1990s


Policy briefs and other related documents

"A broken social elevator ? How to promote social mobility" (June 2018)  L'ascenseur social en panne ? Comment promouvoir la mobilité sociale

"Tackling High Inequalities: Creating Opportunities for All": overview of income inequality trends in the United States from an international perspective, including key elements of a policy package for promoting equality of opportunities in the US (June 2014) 

Focus on Top Incomes and Taxation in OECD Countries: Was the crisis a game changer? (May 2014) - figures and data / press release 
   en français : Focus - Très hauts revenus et fiscalité dans les pays de l’OCDE : la crise a-t-elle changé la donne ? Mai 2014

Balancing Economic Efficiency and Social Equity
by Michael Förster & J.P. Martin, as published by the Japan Economic Foundation (all rights reserved) in Economy, Culture & History Japan Spotlight Bimonthly,
November-December 2012, pages 14-17.

Less income inequality and more growth - are they compatible? (Going for Growth) and Income Inequality in the European Union (January 2012)

Tackling Inequalities in Brazil, China, India and South Africa 2010 - The Role of Labour Market and Social Policies

In-Work Poverty: What Can Governments Do? - policy brief from OECD Employment Outlook 2009

Combating Poverty and Exclusion through Work (2005)

Income Disparities in China - An OECD Perspective (2004)

Income Distribution and Poverty in the OECD Area: Trends and Driving Forces - OECD Economic Studies, N°34, 2002

Trends and Driving Factors in Income Distribution and Poverty in the OECD Area - Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Paper n°42 (2000)

- Economics Department Working Paper n°189 (1998)


Meetings / Forums

Meeting of providers of the OECD Income Distribution Data
OECD, Paris (February 2013)

Policy Forum - How to address inequality and poverty in South Africa? 
Reserve Bank, Pretoria (June 2011)

Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE)
Economic thinkers and policy makers discussed how inequalities of opportunity affect growth and development
(30 May - 1 June 2011)

OECD Policy Forum - Tackling Inequality
(May 2011)




New OECD research suggests that widening inequality is indeed undermining growth. Evidence like this will fuel calls to review the tax contribution of wealthier households to ensure we are more effectively redistributing the benefits of growth to the middle and lower classes and promoting equal opportunities in education and health. Without concerted political action, the gap between the rich and poor will grow even wider in the years ahead.   


"How to combat the tightening grip of inequality around the globe": PBS NewsHour with OECD Secretary-General

Income inequality has been rising over the past three decades, in the United States most of all, but also in the United Kingdom, Canada and France.  Judy Woodruff talk to Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD, about how inequality depresses economic growth. 



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