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Inequality, poverty and well-being
The distribution of income, consumption and wealth continues to be a central area of IFS research. Amongst the many aspects of our work in this area, we seek to chart, explain, and understand changes in inequality in wages, earnings, incomes and consumption, in the UK and other countries; we also seek to examine the effectiveness of a wide range of policies aimed at reducing poverty - including taxes and benefits, and other types of policy interventions - both at home and abroad.

Our research is also concerned with the welfare implications of changes both to inequality and poverty. These depend on how far they are caused by permanent changes in the relative standings of individuals in the income distribution (e.g. a change in the return to certain skills caused by technical progress) or by changes in the frequency of short-lived events (e.g. temporary layoffs), as well as the availability to individuals of specific insurance and other mechanisms to mitigate unexpected events.

For useful facts and figures, visit our Incomes in the UK section, where you will also find out interactive model, Where do you fit in?, which uses the latest data to plot your position in the income distribution.

See all current research projects for this subject


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Year: 503 publications
16 August 1998
Philippe Aghion, Eve Caroli and Cecilia Garcia-Penalosa
The question of how inequality is generated and how it reproduces over time has been a major concern for social scientists for more than a century.
01 July 1998
Chris Giles, Amanda Gosling, Francois Laisney and Thorsten Geib
The first half of the report sheds some new light on the following questions with a detailed and consistent comparison of income distributions in Western Germany and the UK from 1984 to 1992. To what extent was the income distribution in Western Germany similar to the UK in 1984? Did the inequality of West German incomes rise to the same extent? What was the differing role of the labour market, the tax and benefit system and demographic change in each country? The second half of the report concentrates on whether and how education, training and wage setting systems together with other institutional factors in Western Germany can explain the differences relative to the more deregulated UK labour market.
01 May 1998
This paper places the debate over using consumption or income in studies of inequality growth in a formal intertemporal setting.
01 January 1998
Amanda Gosling, Steve Machin and Costas Meghir
This paper uses microeconomic data from the UK Family Expenditure Surveys (FES) and the General Household Surveys (GHS) to describe and explain changes in the distribution of male wages.
01 December 1997
In this Commentary, the authors look at the likely effects that real year-by-year increases in road fuel duties will have on the use of cars by households and on their economic welfare, with particular attention to the distributional consequences.
16 August 1997
Peter Lambert and Simon Parker
Methods of testing econometrically for horizontal inequity (HI) induced by tax systems are examined.
01 July 1997
Amanda Gosling, Paul Johnson, Julian McCrae and Gillian Paull
This report shows the extent to which low pay and unemployment are related, the effects of periods out of work on future earnings and the degree to which low pay is a persistent phenomenon. Importantly it demonstrates the way in which a minimum wage might affect a much higher proportion of the population than is generally appreciated because of the way in which people move in and out of low paid work. A chapter of the report is also given over to the effects of work experience and job tenure on pay levels.
01 July 1997
P. Johnson, S. Webb and Alissa Goodman
01 January 1997
This paper places the debate over using consumption or income in studies of inequality growth in a formal intertemporal setting.
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Impact on Society
Extensive research on inequality allowed us to develop an online model where users can plot their position in the income distribution.
An IFS economist advised a “Citizens Jury” on the welfare system, including basic facts and important issues about its purpose and structure.
IFS researchers played an important role in the analysis underlying the findings of the National Equality Panel set up by the Labour Government.
IFS analysis forms an important input into the public debate about child and pensioner poverty and what policies are best suited to tackle these.
IFS evaluated the Pathways to Work programme. This work proved key to the policy debate about how to get disability benefit claimants in work.
IFS researchers develop a model of the Mexican tax system that will be used by the Mexican Government analysts.
The IFS has made valuable contributions to the debate on VAT and its impact on the poor.
IFS develops data on food prices and nutrition to build capacity for policy-relevant social science research.
Research told policymakers that, despite greater expenditure on health care, Americans are less healthy than their English counterparts.
IFS researchers have monitored the extent to which some households experience higher rates of inflation than others.
IFS researchers and the World Bank plan to develop capacity and tools in developing countries for the comprehensive analysis of tax reforms
In a tough economic climate IFS looks at how households are able to cope.
IFS researchers have investigated whether it is possible to measure the distributional impact of changes to spending on public services.
The IFS played a key role in the debate about who the tax and benefit changes in recent ‘Emergency Budget’ hit hardest.
IFS researchers have investigated the relative merits of government policies designed to protect elderly households from the coldest winters.