Unequal wealth: Income distribution gaps in Europe

The Social Atlas of EuropeIncome inequality has become a wider acknowledged issue in the wealthy parts of the world which is no longer restricted to academic debate. A study commissioned by the IMF (Berg et al, 2011) acknowledges that “the trade-off between efficiency and equality may not exist” (IMF), referring to inequality one possible result of unsustainable growth. Europe has seen a steep rise in economic inequalities which have a huge impact of the people in the European nations. An OECD working paper (Bonesmo Fredriksen, 2012) states that “poor growth performance over the past decades in Europe has increased concerns for rising income dispersion and social exclusion”. It also concludes, that “towards the end of the 2000s the income distribution in Europe was more unequal than in the average OECD country, albeit notably less so than in the United States”, stressing that within-country inequalities are just as important if not more important than the between-country dimension. Both, however, are relevant in the current economic crisis and the again-growing divisions on the continent. As one of the reasons for these changes, the OECD paper states that “large income gains among the 10% top earners appear to be a main driver behind this evolution”.
The following two maps compare the share of income of the richest and poorest 10% of the population in Europe based on national-level data published by Eurostat (2013) (map legend ranked by quartiles). To show the data from a people’s perspective, the map uses a population cartogram as a base which shows the countries resized according to their absolute population. The maps give a look at how disparities exist not only between the countries, but also within each of them by showing, how (un)equal the distribution of income is in every country:


(click for larger version)


I created these two maps as part of my work on The Social Atlas of Europe which is due to be published in May 2014. The book is a project that I worked on with my colleagues Dimitris Ballas (Sheffield) and Danny Dorling (Oxford), which makes it a truly European book, as we are three authors who were born in three different European countries (Greece, England and Switzerland) and thus bring very different perspectives and experiences about Europe with us. We are united in thinking that there is a need to rethink the way we look at Europe as a continent from a social perspective.
Many think of European countries as discreet entities—their own languages, cultures, food, and economies squarely contained within their national boundaries. But in fact Europe is at once a unified place and a sophisticatedly fragmented one, and national boundaries rarely reflect its social and economic realities. The Social Atlas of Europe is the first atlas to map Europe according to these realities, from the perspective of human geography rather than simply a political one. Using innovative full-color visualization methods, it reconsiders European identity through its many different facets: economy, culture, history, and human and physical geography, visualizing Europe and its people in a more fluid way, in some cases using maps without artificial national boundaries. It utilizes the latest available demographic, social, and economic data through state-of-the-art geographical information systems and new cartography techniques. Through these new visualizations, this highly illustrated book offers fresh perspectives on a range of topics, including social values, culture, education, employment, environmental footprints, health and well-being, and social inequalities and cohesion. It is a bold rethinking of Europe as we know it and will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand the continent in its truest form.
Find out more about the book on the Policy Press website, or preorder it (slightly less social) on Amazon UK.

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