The World Wealth and Income Database: data and visualizations from 110 researchers in 70 countries

Thomas "Capital in the 21st Century" Piketty endorses the World Wealth and Income Database, where you will find "open and convenient access to the most extensive available database on the historical evolution of the global distribution of income and wealth, both within countries and between countries" in English, with upcoming translations in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and French.

With one striking result: the share of bottom 50% incomes dropped from 20% to 12% of total national income between 1980 and 2014, while the share going to the the top 1% rose from 11% to 20% over the same period. Both groups have basically exchanged their respective positions in terms of income shares. This corresponds to a dramatic collapse of the relative position of bottom income groups in US society during this period. The figure below (also available here) summarizes the situation and is part of thousands of figures and maps which can be easily generated and exported from

To be concrete, the average annual income of the bottom 50% has stagnated at about 16000 dollars (expressed in constant dollars 2015), while the average income of the top 1% rose from 27 times to 81 times this amount, that is from a little over 400 000 dollars in 1980 to over 1,3 millions dollars in 2014. Note that top 1% individuals are by construction 50 times less numerous than bottom 50% individuals: if their average income is 27 times higher this is not sufficient to compensate their smaller numerical size; but once their average income is 81 times higher, their share in total income is substantially higher than that of the bottom 50%.

World Wealth and Income Database a new global database on inequality [Thomas Piketty/Le Monde]

Notable Replies

  1. This is what the modern conservative hopes to conserve.

  2. The real shocker is found in the wealth disparity, which is far greater than the income disparity. You can clearly see the decline of the middle class, the blue line, since 1980. And the bottom 50% don't have shit, and never did.

  3. CLamb says:

    I think wealth inequality is more significant than income inequality. The people with the top 1% of income can vary considerably from year to year. Those with high income tend to have a much more variable income than those at the low end. Income from sales commissions and investing can vary considerably from year to year.

    I also suspect that the wealth of households divided by the number of people in each household is more significant than the wealth of individuals or households. If one measures individuals instead of households then individuals in a household who are supported by one high wealth person are counted as poor.

  4. Note that this is marking changes in pre-tax income.

    Once you factor in the massive reduction in taxation on the wealthy over the last few decades, the shift is much larger. The rich are getting more to start with and paying less tax; for the poor, the reverse.

  5. Note the effect of the GFC on the bottom 50%; from fuck-all to less than nothing.

    I'm reminded of Micawber.

Continue the discussion

5 more replies