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FRDB Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti

The Great Recession and the Distribution of Household Income

February 2013

Edited by Stephen P. Jenkins, Andrea Brandolini, John Micklewright, and Brian Nolan

Oxford University Press

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The book "The Great Recession and the Distribution of Household Income", edited by Stephen P. Jenkins (London School of Economics), Andrea Brandolini  (Bank of Italy), John Micklewright (University of London), and Brian Nolan (University College Dublin), has been recently published by Oxford University Press.


The so-called Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis at the end of 2007 was the largest economic downturn since the 1930s for most rich countries. To what extent were household incomes affected by this event, and how did the effects differ across countries? 

This is the first cross-national study of the impact of the Great Recession on the distribution of household incomes. Looking at real income levels, poverty rates, and income inequality, it focusses on the period 2007-9, but also considers longer-term impacts. Three vital contributions are made. First, the book reviews lessons from the past about the relationships between macroeconomic change and the household income distribution. Second, it considers the experience of 21 rich OECD member countries drawing on a mixture of national accounts, and labour force and household survey data. Third, the book presents case-study evidence for six countries: Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the UK, and the USA. The book shows that, between 2007 and 2009, government support through the tax and benefit system provided a cushion against the downturn, and household income distributions did not change much. But, after 2009, there is likely to be much greater change in incomes as a result of the fiscal consolidation measures that are being put into place to address the structural deficits accompanying the recession. The book's main policy lesson is that stabilisation of the household income distribution in the face of macroeconomic turbulence is an achievable policy goal, at least in the short-term.

In particular, the book includes:

  • A comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Great Recession on household incomes and how the major economic downturn has affected how well-off people are
  • The first cross-national comparative perspective, it shows the diverse country experiences of the Great Recession and how its impacts have played out
  • Extensive chapter cross-referencing, relatively non-technical language, and extensive use of graphical summaries of statistical findings
  • New analysis specially commissioned for the book
  • Focus on living standards measure (household income, not just employment earnings) and population coverage of the old and young, and the employed and unemployed
Related contents

Conferences / Incomes Across the Great Recession