World inequality

Gap between rich and poor least in Scandinavia

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

World Inequality ReportAround the world since 1980, the income gap between rich and poor has gone up, with significant differences among countries. In 1980, the top 1 percent of income earners captured about 10 percent of total income in Europe as well as in the United States and Canada. In 2016, the top 1 percent income shares had gone up to an average of 12 percent in Europe and had shot up to 20 percent in the U.S. and Canada. Within Europe, the rise was less than average in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, to about 6 percent in 2016.

These income figures and other factors related to them have been collected in the World Wealth and Income Database (WID), compiled in a collaborative effort of researchers round the globe. In turn, the WID led to the first World Inequality Report, released on Dec. 14, 2017, at the first WID conference held at the Paris School of Economics and available in free downloadable PDF (in eight languages) at

In Norway, the first WID conference led to analyses and media coverage of the aspects of it relevant to Norway, as in a front-page feature in the print edition of Aftenposten on Jan. 21, and to an online edition entitled “Mens forskjellene skyter i været i USA, klarer mange land i Europa å holde igjen…” (While inequality shoots up in the U.S., many European countries exercise restraint), by Øystein Kløvstad Lang, downloadable at

In that coverage, Statistics Norway senior researcher Rolf Aaberge reflected pride in the Scandinavian welfare-state model by observing (in translation) that: “Economic growth is not itself a goal. One might wonder what’s the point of it if growth benefits only a small group of wealthy people.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.