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An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK

Report of the National Equality Panel

The independent National Equality Panel was set up in October 2008 at the invitation of the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman MP, Minister for Women and Equality. The Panel was asked to investigate the relationships between the distributions of various kinds of economic outcome on the one hand and people's characteristics and circumstances on the other. Our report addresses questions such as how far up or down do people from different backgrounds typically come in the distributions of earnings, income or wealth?

Specifically, the outcomes we examined are:
  • educational outcomes, including the range of achievement of young people at 16 and the highest educational qualifications of adults;

  • employment status of the adult population;

  • earnings of those in paid employment, both hourly wages and weekly earnings;

  • individual incomes, received by each adult in his or her own right from all sources, both before and after deducting direct taxes;

  • incomes calculated from the total receipts of the household of which someone is a member, adjusted for the size of the household and after allowing for benefits and direct taxes - known as 'equivalent net income';

  • wealth - the stock of assets of households taking the form of financial or housing assets, including private pension rights.
In our main report, we present information on the distributions of these outcomes for the population as a whole. Where possible we indicate how they have changed in the last decade or more, and how the UK compares with other industrialised countries. But our main focus is on the position of different social groups within the distributions of each outcome. We show breakdowns relating to gender, age, ethnicity, religion or belief, disability status, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, housing tenure, nation or region, and level of deprivation in the neighbourhood. The report also examines how outcomes have changed over time and how they develop across the life cycle. At the end of the report, we set out the implications of our findings for the development of policy.

In the summary we highlight and illustrate some of our key findings and suggest the challenges they pose for the development of policy. The 6-page Executive Summary gives a short version of the report's main findings.