Inequality, Redistribution and Living Standards in Britain since 1945
In the fifty years since the end of the Second World War, the British people have enjoyed the fruits of an unprecedented period of sustained economic growth. Real personal disposable income per capita (i.e. income after direct tax) has grown at an average annual rate of 2.4 per cent over the period 1949–95.1 This means that people today are about three times as well-off as in the late 1940s, and now, in real terms, earn and spend £2.95 for every £1 they earned and spent in 1949. Yet despite the palpable economic achievements of the postwar period, there has been intermittent, and over the last decade rather more continuous, concern about the failure to distribute the benefits of economic growth to all sections of the population. There has, moreover, been a growing belief in the 1980s that measured economic growth has been achieved at the expense of unmeasured costs — the costs of occupational stress, congestion and pollution, environmental degradation and familial and societal disintegration. If the idea of the ‘standard of living’ is to involve more than simply the summation of market activity, then it should, in some way, take into account those qualitative changes in British society over the last five decades that do not figure in estimates of real income per capita.
KeywordsIncome Distribution Disposable Income Real Income Household Type Female Labour Force Participation
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 4.H. Phelps Brown, A Century of Pay (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 73.Google Scholar
- 5.A. R. Thatcher, ‘The New Earnings Survey and the distribution of earnings’ in A. B. Atkinson (ed.), The Personal Distribution of Income (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1976).Google Scholar
- 7.C. H. Feinstein, Statistical Tables of National Income, Expenditure and Output of the UK, 1855–1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), Table 59; Employment Gazette, June 1995, tables 1.3 and 7. 1.Google Scholar
- 8.J. Lewis, Women in Britain since 1945 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992), p. 65.Google Scholar
- 9.J. Hills, Income and Wealth, Volume 2 (York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1995), p. 53.Google Scholar
- 10.Central Statistical Office, Social Trends 1991 (London: HMSO, 1991), p. 38.Google Scholar
- 18.J. Schmitt, ‘The changing structure of male earnings in Britain, 1974–88’ in R. Freeman and L. Katz (eds), Changes and Differences in Wage Structures (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).Google Scholar
- 26.A. Goodman and S. Webb, For Richer, for Poorer: the changing distribution of income in the United Kingdom 1961–1991 (London: Institute for Fiscal Studies, 1994).Google Scholar
- 27.R. C. Goodin and J. Le Grand, Not only the Poor: the middle classes and the welfare state (London: Allen & Unwin, 1987).Google Scholar
- 30.United Nations, Human Development Report, 1994 (New York: United Nations, 1994).Google Scholar
- 31.P. Dasgupta, An Enquiry into Well-Being and Destitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).Google Scholar
- 34.J. Falkingham and J. Hills, ‘Lifetime incomes and the welfare state’ in J. Falkingham and J. Hills (eds), The Dynamic of Welfare (Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995), pp. 108–136.Google Scholar