income distribution

Living standards in the European club of rich nations

There’s a lot of interest at the moment in how living standards have changed over time, especially in the UK and the US. But how do living standards compare across countries at a single point in time? By any measure, the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, belonging to a select club of nations in which living standards are very high by global standards. But how does it compare to the other members of the club?

Nothing less than the second best: why we transfer income

Partly inspired by a seminar given by Elizabeth Anderson at the IPPR on 13 June, in which the question of how far egalitarians should rely on income redistribution was debated. I argue that our main form of income redistribution, the social security system, achieves some equalisation of income but only as a by-product of poverty reduction. Egalitarian aims go far beyond poverty reduction, I guess, so the implication is that egalitarian strategies sit alongside the objectives of social security rather than informing them or- as some seem to feel these days- competing with them. To say that social security is mainly about reducing poverty, and that that's no bad thing, is not of course to say that poverty reduction in any way defines the limits of social justice, or that other welfare state functions do not serve broader egalitarian objectives.

'Predistribution'

I assume that when people talk about 'predistribution' they mean the distribution of what ONS refer to as 'original income', which for people of working age is basically income from earnings and investment, before taxes, National Insurance contributions, government income transfers and benefits in kind. Targeting 'predistribution' as advocated by Labour leader Ed Miliband would therefore, presumably, involve trying to shift the distribution of original income.

So how has the distribution of original income developed over recent decades?