Incomes and Income Inequality in Stockholm, 1870–1970: Evidence from Micro Data

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This paper builds on a new dataset from the population register, comprising 38,022 randomly sampled Stockholm residents. The register was also the income tax list, with information about people’s incomes of various types, age, and household composition, in the years 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1940 and 1950. We use this dataset, along with the census of 1930, which uniquely included income information, and a Statistics Sweden random sample for 1960 and 1970, to calculate the growth and distribution of incomes in Stockholm over a hundred years. The Gini coefficient between 1870 and 1920 was high for both individuals and households, around 60-70 and with no change statistically significant at the 95 percent level. After 1920 inequality fell quite steadily for every benchmark year. The top decile’s share of incomes (among households) fell from 50 percent or higher in 1870–1920 to less than 40 percent in 1930 and around 30 percent in 1950. The equalization was driven not only by gains for middle income groups, but also by gains for the bottom half of the distribution. Women constituted the larger share of the bottom half of income earners. Domestic servants, the single largest group in the city, earned very little but reduced their share of working-class jobs from 45 percent in 1870 to 10 percent in 1950. Generally, upgrading jobs was an important way of reducing income inequality. Decomposing the inequality decline from 1920 to 1950 between age, gender, class and sector of occupation shows that class was by far the largest determinant of inequality and of its decline.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages53
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameLund Papers in Economic History
PublisherDepartment of Economic History, Lund University

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • inequality
  • incomes
  • income distribution
  • Stockholm
  • gender gap
  • tax data
  • D31
  • N33
  • N34


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