"Public opinion has a conception of inequality that differs from the most common indicators"

The economist François Bourguignon analyzes the gap between the reality of inequalities in France and their perception by the public.

THE ECONOMIC WORLD
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Tribune. Public opinion seems to perceive inequality as constantly increasing. This impression also tends to strengthen. According to the survey by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health ("In 2017, the less worried and more demanding French public intervention", Drees, March 2018), the percentage of French who think that inequality has increased in the last five years, and it increased dramatically in the 2000s: 77% today share this opinion.

What is it really? Whether it is individual living standards or the richest share of 1% or 10% of total household income before taxes and transfers, in the last 15 years inequality has in fact varied very little in France. past years. The Gini standard of living standards, a standard measure ranging from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality), on average 0.284 during the first three years of the millennium. Fifteen years later, it was 0.289: the increase is tiny. Likewise, the share of the richer 1% of households increased from 12% of total household income in 2000 to just over 11% today. The fluctuations occurred between two, but they were short-lived and of low magnitude.

The statistical reality is that France is a country where inequality has remained stable in the recent period, unlike other countries, such as the United States, where inequality has been on an upward trend for over 30 years. years, or in Germany.

Many dimensions in the concept of inequality

How to explain this divorce between perception and reality? A first possibility is that, although commonly used by specialists, the statistics cited above reflect only two particular aspects of economic inequality. It summarizes the inequality in the overall distribution of living standards, and the other …

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