Tag: income distribution

Since Labour has been in power the gap between rich and poor has remained more or less unchanged – a fact that might be surprising given a Labour government and fiscal policies that have become increasingly redistributive in nature. In fact income distribution in the UK has not changed since 1991 according to Office for National Statistics figures. Economists measure income distribution in various ways, but two of the key indicators are the Gini coefficient and the Lorenz curve. For more information on income distribution and some useful data, you may like to download an income data spreadsheet from the IFS (zip file). If you are interested in where you fit into the income scale, then you may also like to try the Institute for Fiscal Studies interactive income model. Why not try a range of different scenarios to see where different levels of income fit into the overall income scale.

UK income gap ‘same as in 1991’ BBC News Online (16/12/08)


  1. Define the terms (a) Gini coefficient and (b) Lorenz curve.
  2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show how the Lorenz curve will change when income distribution becomes (a) more equal and (b) less equal.
  3. Explain how the value of the Gini coefficient will change as income distribution gets more equal. With reference to the IFS spreadsheet (linked to above) descibe how the Gini coefficient has changed in recent years.
  4. Discuss reasons why income distibution in the UK has stayed the same since 1991 despite a series of redistributive measures adopted by the Labour government since 1997.

In the face of a Labour backbench rebellion over the abolition of the 10p tax rate in the most recent Budget, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, introduced what has been described as a mini-budget this month. In this mini-budget he significantly increased tax allowances to try to alleviate the impact of the removal of the 10p tax rate on some of the poorest families.

Darling’s solution could prove costly, say economists Guardian (14/5/08)
FAQ: Formula that bought off the Labour rebels Guardian (14/5/08)
Brown risks £2.7bn tax cut to end revolt Guardian (14/5/08)
Mini-budget will put money in pockets of 22 million voters Guardian (13/5/08)
Darling’s statement in full Guardian (13/5/08)
Institute for Fiscal Studies highlights Chancellor’s dilemma after emergency tax cut Times Online (21/5/08)
Q&A on the Government’s ‘Golden Rule’ Times Online (15/5/08)
Basic rate taxpayers to get £120 BBC News Online (13/5/08)
Q&A: Tax changes BBC News Online (13/5/08)
Full statement: Tax changes BBC News Online (13/5/08)


1. What was the effect of the abolition of the10p tax rate on income distribution (before the min-budget measures)?
2. Assess the extent to which these changes will alleviate the impact of removing the 10p tax rate on the poorest families.
3. Discuss the likely impact of this change in the government’s fiscal stance on the main UK macroeconomic targets.

Widening levels of income distribution have led to increased anger, according to a poll carried out for the Guardian by ICM. The articles linked to below look at this issue from a range of perspectives and using a series of regional case studies.

Anger at gap between rich and poor – ICM poll Guardian (20/2/08)
Diamonds for rich inside M25; hard times for the rest Guardian (21/1/08)
What the Romans did for us: introduce a North-South divide Guardian (21/1/08)
Where Burberry, Bentleys and bling prevail Guardian (21/1/08)
Dark reality hidden behind the picturesque scenery Guardian (21/1/08)
Mills and mail order: end of Empire marks another stage of decline Guardian (21/1/08)
Mind the gap Guardian (21/1/08)


1. Define the terms ‘Lorenz curve’ and Gini coefficient’.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate show the changes that have taken place in income distribution in the UK in the past decade.
3. Assess the principal causes of the growing North-South divide.
4. Evaluate two policy options available to the government to reduce the widening gap in income distribution.

According to most conventional measures, income inequality in the developed world has been rising. This trend has been argued to be particularly prevalent in the UK and USA, but the article below from The Economist argues that conventional measures may be mis-representing the differences between the better off and the less well off. Instead of looking at income inequality, it looks at consumption inequality.

The new (improved) Gilded age The Economist (19/12/07)


1. Define the terms (a) income inequality and (b) consumption inequality.
2. Assess the extent to which income represents a good measure of economic wellbeing.
3. Discuss two policies that could be used to reduce (a) income inequality and (b) consumption inequality.

During the period that Mrs Thatcher was in office, the post-war trend towards greater equality of income was reversed. Although some of the changes the Labour government has made since 1997 have helped those on lower incomes, the rise in incomes at the top of the scale has meant that the gap between rich and poor has widened again. The article below from the Guardian looks at the latest figures on income inequality.

Inequality at same level as under Thatcher Guardian (18/5/07)

1. Define the terms (a) Lorenz curve and (b) Gini coefficient.
2. Given the changes in income distribution outlined in the article, discuss how the value of the Gini coefficient has changed since 1997.
3. Draw Lorenz curves to show the changes that have taken place in income distribution during Mrs Thatcher’s period in office and during Tony Blair’s time in office.
4. Analyse two policies that the government could introduce to reverse these income distribution trends.