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Importing inequality: Immigration and the top 1%

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Importing inequality: Immigration and the top 1%

Top incomes have grown rapidly in in the UK in recent decades, sparking debate about rising inequality in Western societies. New research shows that migration accounts for 85% of this top income growth.

Research by Arun Advani, Felix Koenig, Lorenzo Pessina, and Andy Summers analysing data on UK taxpayers shows that migrants are over-represented at the top of the UK income distribution. Migrants are twice as prevalent in the top 0.1% as anywhere in the bottom 97%. These high incomes are predominantly from labour, rather than capital, and migrants are concentrated in only a handful of industries, predominantly finance. Almost all (85%) of the growth in the UK top 1% income share over the past 20 years can be attributed to migration.

Read the research

Advani, A., Koenig, F., Pessina, L., and Summers, A. (2020), ‘Importing Inequality: Immigration and the Top 1 percent’, CAGE working papers (no. 508)

The research findings are summarised in the VOX article Importing inequality: Immigration and the top 1%

In the News

Does Immigration import inequality? The Economist, September 2020

Migrants responsible for UK's growth of top incomes and taxes, The Financial Times, September 2020

About a quarter of the UK's top earners are migrants, data shows, The Guardian, September 2020