Ben Ansell

Wealth Inequality Beyond Piketty

Thomas Piketty’s 2014 magnum opus argued that the holders of capital would receive an ever-rising share of national income over the twenty-first cen- tury. While this book has attracted unprecedented interest across the social sciences, we know rather little about the politics of wealth inequality, as op- posed to income inequality, and hence how growth in wealth inequality, per Piketty, might have political impacts over the coming decades both within and across countries. A further twist to Piketty’s argument is that most of the rise in the return to capital actually comes from residential housing not investment capital. Are homeowners the new capitalists? What are the implications in terms of political divides, particularly between young and old, and those living in prime vs peripheral residential locations? This essay draws on evidence from cross-OECD and Eastern European survey data, along with British data from the BSAS and the Brexit vote, to argue for the importance of new sources of wealth, particularly housing, in defining contemporary political conflicts.

Link to full paper here.