The Formation of Distributions of Income and Wealth

Henry Phelps Brown

in Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality

Published in print November 1988 | ISBN: 9780198286486
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596773 | DOI:
 The Formation of Distributions of Income and Wealth

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The distributions of personal income and holdings of wealth that have been examined earlier in the book have salient features in common: wealth is much more unequally distributed than income, but the form of distribution is similar. There are three ways of asking how the distributions came to take that form; these overlap, but there may be an advantage in following separate approaches to these in an initial examination. The three approaches are examined in the next four sections of the chapter: the first looks at the components of distributions, since there are various distinct sources of inequality; and the second examines the mathematical properties of that form, hoping to find in those properties a guide to the actual processes of formulation in everyday life; and the third and fourth consider the formation of distributions as an ongoing process, addressing incomes and wealth separately. These four sections give examples from various countries. The last section of the chapter examines ‘great fortunes’, since it is clear that the biggest incomes and wealth holdings form a distinct system; most of the examples given are from British history, and look at both transmitted wealth and fortunes built up by their holders.

Keywords: Britain; components of distributions; form of distribution; formation of distribution; fortunes; great fortunes; income distribution; mathematical properties; statistics; UK; wealth distribution

Chapter.  32707 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Economics

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