Employment, Equity and Growth

Funded by: Resolution Foundation, Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School

Start date: 2014

End date: 2018, work ongoing

Project outline

This research programme seeks to understand why current economic growth models are failing middle and lower income households in many rich countries and what may be required for better, fairer growth. The programme is exploring what drives improvements in ordinary living standards across the rich countries of the OECD, the major challenges that have emerged over recent decades including rising inequality, and how these might be addressed. The programme's work is supporting the development of new public policy approaches to rising inequality and declining social mobility. The programme is a partnership between the Department of Social Policy and Intervention and the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School.

From 2014 to 2018 the programme was supported by the Resolution Foundation, and the core research team over that period included Professor Erzsébet Bukodi, Dr. Andrea Geraci, Dr. Marii Paskov, Dr. Max Roser, and Dr. Stefan Thewissen. The key findings of that research have been brought together in two volumes published by Oxford University Press in 2018 edited by Brian Nolan: 

Inequality and Inclusive Growth in Rich Countries: Shared Challenges and Contrasting Fortunes


and Generating Prosperity for Working Families in Rich Countries


These bring out that, while rich countries have faced common challenges in an era of globalization and rapid technological change, some sets of institutions and policy responses proved more capable than others in still underpinning widely-share improvements in incomes and living standards. The United States, often taken as a point of reference in current debates, is in many respects distinctive rather than typical, making it hazardous to draw general overarching conclusions from its experience and highlighting the value of the comparative perspective provided by this programme.

That comparative perspective is also central to the on-going Oxford Martin Programme on Inequality and Prosperity, which is currently at the core of the Employment, Equity and Growth research programme.

1. How distinctive is Britain’s experience in terms of inequality and living standards? Was pre-crisis stagnation a sign of things to come?

2. How are labour market changes, linked with technology and globalisation, driving trends in middle and below incomes from work, and what role does income from capital play?

3. How might pre-distribution of market income and redistribution via taxes and transfers deliver more effectively for middle and below households?

4. What are the long-term/intergenerational threats from increasing inequality and stagnating living standards and how can they be averted?   

5. What are the growth models that have been successful in securing rising prosperity for middle and below households and what policies and institutional structures have supported such growth models?

For further information please contact Brian Nolan brian.nolan(at)spi.ox.ac.uk

B. Nolan ed., (2018), Inequality and Inclusive Growth in Rich Countries: Shared Challenges and Contrasting Fortunes, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


B. Nolan ed., (2018), Generating Prosperity for Working Families in Rich Countries, B. Nolan (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Thewissen, S., L. Kenworthy, B. Nolan, M. Roser and T. Smeeding (2018). ‘Rising Income Inequality and Living Standards in OECD Countries: How Does the Middle Fare?’, Journal of Income Distribution, 26(2): 1-23.

Nolan, B., M. Roser and S. Thewissen (2018). ‘GDP Per Capita Versus Median Household Income: What Gives Rise to the Divergence Over Time and How Does This Vary Across OECD Countries?’, Review of Income and Wealth, https://doi.org/10.1111/roiw.12362

Atkinson, A.B., Leventi, C.  Nolan, B., Sutherland, H. and Tasseva, I. (2017). ‘Reducing poverty and inequality through tax-benefit reform and the minimum wage: the UK as a case-study’, Journal of Economic Inequality, 15(4): 303–323.

Aaberge, R., F. Bourguignon, A. Brandolini, F. Ferreira, J. Gornick, J. Hills, M. Jäntti, S. Jenkins, E. Marlier, J. Micklewright, B. Nolan, T. Piketty, W. Radermacher, T. Smeeding, N. Stern, J. Stiglitz and H. Sutherland (2017), ‘Tony Atkinson and his Legacy’, Review of Income and Wealth, 63 (3), 411–444.

Nolan, B. and C.T. Whelan, (2017). 'Atkinson's Inequality: What Can Be Done?'. Revue Francaise de Sociologie, 53 (2), 181-189.

List of site pages