The Measurement of Income and Wealth Distribution since 1945.
German Historical Institute London
Economic inequality has become one of the most contentious political topics of our time, and statistics on income and wealth disparities have come to play an increasingly important role in modern political culture, influencing public debates about distributional questions, societal self-descriptions and perceptions of other societies. Global knowledge on economic inequality and poverty evolved incrementally, with important spurts occurring in the 1960s/1970s and then again during the 1990s/2000s. The first initiatives towards an international standardisation of income and wealth statistics were launched by the UN and the OECD during the 1960s/70s, but made only slow progress. This contributed to delaying the debate about global inequality, which had long been confined to measures like GDP per capita, while comparisons in terms of personal income have only recently been possible since more data has become available. Both these debates and the underlying statistics have a history that is not yet fully understood.