Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ireland and inequality, back to the 1990s

TheJournal.ie asked me if they might republish my post on the surprising fall of income inequality in Ireland, and it appears, slightly edited for an Irish readership, here. I am a little amused to see the headline - 'Column: The boom made Ireland a more equal society. Surprised?' - since this is not really what I argued! Actually the figures for 2006-2009 cover only the tail end of the bubble years and the beginning of the recession.

That is an occupational hazard in journalism, though: many readers may not be aware that headlines are coined by editors, not by the journalists, so there can be discrepancies! Anyway I'm flattered TheJournal.ie editors took an interest.

But it did get me wondering what Ireland's income inequality trends look like a little bit further back. From the 2008 Statistical Yearbook and 2006 I can add the Central Statistics Office data for 2003, 2004 and 2005. The combined picture now looks like this:

Gini coefficient
2003: 31.1
2004: 31.8
2005: 32.4
2006: 32.4
2007: 31.7
2008: 30.7
2009: 29.3

Income distribution (income quintile share ratio)
2003: 5.0
2004: 5.0
2005: 4.9
2006: 5.0
2007: 4.9
2008: 4.6
2009: 4.3

Inequality steady or rising slightly until 2006, then falling. I find it difficult to get earlier data, but this ESRI presentation says that Ireland's Gini coefficient remained around 32% from 1994 to 2000, which seems consistent enough with the data I have here. (It concludes that 'Income inequality was not dramatically changed by the economic boom.') Certainly no sign of any strong shift towards income inequality.

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