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High incomes study shows women are less than a quarter of top one per cent

cashA new study by LSE’s International Inequalities Institute shows that women make up a smaller and smaller fraction of those with high incomes, the closer you get to the top.  Women have been increasing their representation in the top 10 per cent, but progress has been much less at the very top 0.1 per cent.

Tony Atkinson (Oxford University and LSE), Alessandra Casarico (Bocconi University, Milan) and Sarah Voitchovsky (Graduate Institute, Geneva and University of Melbourne) use tax data from eight countries since the 1980s or earlier to look for the first time at the gender composition of those with top incomes from all sources, not just from earnings.

They find that:

  • Women are less than a third of those in the top 10% in all countries, and as few as 22 per cent in Norway.
  • Women are less than a quarter of the top 1% in all the countries, and less than 18 per cent in Norway, Demark and the UK.
  • Only 9 per cent of the top 0.1% in the UK are women, the lowest of the six countries that can be compared.
  • The presence of women at the top has generally increased over time (although not in Australia), but less rapidly at the very top.
  • Over time the speed of the fall in the presence of women moving from the top to the very top has become more marked – there appears to be a ‘glass ceiling’ at the very top, despite some improvements for the top 10%.
  • In the UK while the share of women in the top 10% and top 1% has risen since the 1990s, the share of women in the top 0.1 per cent was little changed.

The research shows that it is important to look not just at the gender gap in pay from work, but also at who benefits from other kinds of income, such as dividends and interest.

Alessandra Casarico said: “Women now make up more of the top income groups, but they still are a distinct minority and they become rarer the higher one climbs. Composition of income is important: In the old days, the rich were those with property; they have been replaced by CEOs and entrepreneurs, among whom women are not well represented."

Notes to editors

Top incomes and the gender divide, International Inequalities Institute Working paper No.5, will be available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/InternationalInequalities/publications/Publications.aspx

To interview the authors, please contact: Jo Bale, LSE Press Office, j.m.bale@lse.ac.uk  07831 609679

Sarah Voitchovsky and Alessandra Casarico will be presenting their work at an International Inequalities Institute seminar at 1230 -1.45 on Tuesday 27 September 2016.  For further information, please contact Liza Ryan at e.ryan@lse.ac.uk

About the authors

Professor Sir Tony Atkinson is an academic economist particularly concerned with issues of social justice and the design of public policy. He has been writing on economics since the 1960s, when his first book was on poverty in Britain and his second on the unequal distribution of wealth. He is currently working on top incomes, contributing to the World Top Incomes Database, and on monitoring rising inequality across the world. Together with Joe Stiglitz, he wrote Lectures in Public Economics, and today he is developing research on global public economics.

Alessandra Casarico is Associate Professor of Public Economics at Bocconi University, Italy. She is CESifo Research Fellow and she is the coordinator of the Welfare State and Taxation Unit of the Dondena Research Centre on Social Dynamics and Public Policy at Bocconi. She holds a D.Phil from the University of Oxford. Her research interests concern public policy and gender (in)equality.

Sarah Voitchovsky  is now based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva on a research fellowship funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her main research interests are the inter-relationships between inequality, poverty and the macro-economy. She previously worked at the Melbourne Institute (University of Melbourne) and the UCD Geary Institute in Dublin having received a Doctorate in Economics from the University of Oxford.

27 September 2016