A data revolution is underway. Will NGOs miss the boat?

Guest blogger, Sophia Ayele, looks at the role of NGOs within the data revolution and shares Oxfam’s experiences preparing to share data responsibly. 

The data revolution has arrived. Data is all around us – every time we Google, post on Twitter or walk down the street with our phones, we are generating data. A recent ODI Report Data Revolution – Finding The Missing Million described this revolution as, “an explosion in the volume of data, the speed with which data are produced, the number of producers of data, the dissemination of data, and the range of things on which there are data…” This explosion of data is increasingly being harnessed to look for patterns and to provide additional insights about our world.

More and more governments are adopting open data policies, providing access to official statistics. Multilateral institutions have also jumped on board. The World Bank’s Open Data Initiative has been running for the last five years. Academics, like the Poverty Action Lab at MIT and Young Lives Project out of the Univ. of Oxford are also sharing data. The UN has even launched a Data Revolution Group (to ensure that the revolution penetrates into international development). The Group’s 2014 report suggests that harnessing the power of newly available data could ultimately lead to, “more empowered people, better policies, better decisions and greater participation and accountability, leading to better outcomes for people and the planet.”

But where do NGOs fit in?   

Over the last two decades, NGO have been collecting increasing amounts of research and evaluation data, largely driven by donor demands for more rigorous evaluations of programs. The quality and efficiency of data collection has also been enhanced by mobile data collection. However, a quick scan of UK development NGOs reveals that few, if any, are sharing the data that they collect. This means that NGOs are generating dozens (if not hundreds) of datasets every year that aren’t being fully exploited and analysed. Working on tight budgets, with limited capacity, it’s not surprising that NGOs often shy away from sharing data without a clear mandate.

But change is in the air. Several donors have begun requiring NGOs to publicise data and others appear to be moving in that direction. Last year, USAID launched its Open Data Policy which requires that grantees “submit any dataset created or collected with USAID funding…” Not only does USAID stipulate this requirement, it also hosts this data on its Development Data Library (DDL) and provides guidance on anonymisation to depositors. Similarly, Gates Foundation’s 2015 Open Access Policystipulates that, “Data underlying published research results will be accessible and open immediately.” However, they are allowing a two-year transition period.

Is there a responsible path for NGOs like Oxfam?

At Oxfam, we have been exploring ways to begin sharing research and evaluation data. We aren’t being required to do this – yet – but, we realise that the data that we collect is a public good with the potential to improve lives through more effective development programs and to raise the voices of those with whom we work. Moreover, organizations like Oxfam can play a crucial role in highlighting issues facing women and other marginalized communities that aren’t always captured in national statistics. Sharing data is also good practice and would increase our transparency and accountability as an organization.

However, we also bear a huge responsibility to protect the rights of the communities that we work with. This involves ensuring informed consent when gathering data, so that communities are fully aware that their data may be shared, and de-identifying data to a level where individuals and households cannot be easily identified.

As Oxfam has outlined in our, recently adopted, Responsible Data Policy, “Using data responsibly is not just an issue of technical security and encryption but also of safeguarding the rights of people to be counted and heard, ensuring their dignity, respect and privacy, enabling them to make an informed decision and protecting their right to not be put at risk…”

This policy, which outlines Oxfam’s approach to data collection and use as well as minimum standards for staff, partners and contractors, is helping to guide our work. We have also consulted widely, spent time learning about good practice for data de-identification and researched the safest data hosting platforms. As experts will tell you, true anonymisation is virtually impossible, but there are established good practices for removing personal information from data. The Responsible Data Forum and UK Anonymisation Network (which provides free anonymisation clinics) have all been extremely helpful in this process.

We have identified the UK Data Service as a safe platform and plan to begin sharing data there in the autumn. The UK Data Service provides secure access to data for research purposes. Data is only available to registered users and there are strict controls on how it can be handled and used. We are also working with our legal and information security teams to review our internal systems and rules around data collection, handling and storage.

This has involved revamping guidelines for staff, consultants and partners working with data and developing a system of oversight to ensure that data will be adequately de-identified prior to deposit with UK Data Service. We have also developed internal controls to determine when it is appropriate and safe to share data. In some cases, we may decide not to share data. For example, if they are determined to be of a highly sensitive nature and could put people at risk.

We are very proud of this initiative and excited about the contribution that it will make to the development knowledge-base. Nonetheless, we are proceeding with caution, as it feels a bit like venturing out into uncharted waters. The process will take place gradually, starting with a small number of datasets and expanding overtime.

As we navigate the complexities of informed consent and de-identification, one thing is clear – the data revolution is here and it’s here to stay.

The question isn’t whether NGOs should engage with it. It’s when and how.

Why am I leaving one of the best jobs in international development?

Author: Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (@rivefuentes)

I have some news. I will be leaving the post of Head of Research at Oxfam Great Britain. It’s been three years since I joined Oxfam and it’s been quite a ride to say the least. But more on that later.

I am leaving, but not leaving. I will be moving back to Mexico where I’ll be taking up the role of Executive Director for Oxfam Mexico (for those who don’t know, Oxfam is a confederation of “like-minded affiliates”, Oxfam Mexico and Oxfam Great Britain are two of them). I’m quite excited, especially after so many years living abroad. I first left Mexico in 1997 and since then have been back (not counting holidays) twice for a total of two years. Last time I worked and lived there was in 2003, a few years after the election of the first opposition President in more than 70 years. I will soon know what it means to be a particular version of a returned migrant.

Mexico is facing many challenges – including a semi-stagnant economy, stubbornly high poverty rates and massive social and economic inequalities (as highlighted in the excellent report from Gerardo Esquivel for Oxfam Mexico). Electoral democracy was not the silver bullet expected by many. The rule of law is weak and politicians of all sorts (all parties and all levels) escape the existing accountability mechanisms. And then there’s the violence driven by the war on drugs and the drug cartels – and the inability to keep the most dangerous cartel leaders in prison. In its darkest days, Mexico experiences acts of pure, unadulterated evil.

At the same time, something quite exciting is happening. Those who have visited Mexico City lately can attest the vibrancy, energy and innovation in everyday life. The city is experiencing a renaissance that’s attracting young people from around the world. Among the Mexican youth there have also been bright outbursts of civil action, aptly described by the novelist Francisco Goldman in a series of articles in the New Yorker and his new book The Interior Circuit. During the mass protest following the disappearance of 43 rural students late last year, Goldman wrote,

“[S]ometimes a march makes concrete a moment of collective cultural expression that can be harder to put into words. This march was an expression of Mexico City—of a way its residents like to think of themselves—in full flower. But it was also a manifestation of a discernible change that seems to be taking place throughout Mexico. When a friend said that he “could feel Mexico on the move” at the march, he didn’t seem, to me, to be exaggerating.”

This movement isn’t only happening in Mexico City. In the recent elections, a number of public offices around the country went to independent political candidates for the first time, including the governorship of the northern state of Nuevo Leon, the richest in the country. That’s very exciting.

I’m going back because I want to be part of that broader Mexican movement. I want to be part of a stronger, more strategic Mexican civil society.  I’m convinced Oxfam Mexico can contribute to this movement for a better society and improved interactions between institutions, the government and citizens – and confirmed by the enormous media coverage of the Oxfam Mexico report on inequality mentioned above. I’m convinced that I can help the organisation on this journey.

It will also be exciting to continue to work on global issues from a new perspective. People everywhere talk about “the rise of the global south” or different variations of that concept.  Mexico is a large, integrated economy and one of the behemoths in Latin America. It has usually punched below its weight in global affairs (if you discount the delusional attempts by one of our presidents to mediate in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1970s) but this seems to be changing. There is now a Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation and, in recent years, Mexico has led in some of the most noticeable climate change issues. There are countless opportunities for Oxfam Mexico to help advance this transformation.

I feel rather lucky. The Head of Research at Oxfam Great Britain is a wonderful gig. I’m very proud of my team and our work across campaigns and programmes. We accomplished a lot of important things during my time here. Our research on inequality includes the two most successful papers in Oxfam’s 70-plus years of history. The stat “the 85 richest people control as much wealth as the bottom half of the population” became a global message that highlighted the extent of wealth concentration. We did more than that: we used data from our programmes to learn what made a project successful; we explored the links between natural resources and social justice; we consolidated the research resources across the different Oxfams. More than anything, I am proud of the approach that I brought (or at least pushed) to Oxfam’s work: the systematic use of evidence, including the thorough use of statistics, to identify and fight poverty and injustice. As Thomas Piketty wrote in the last page in Capital in the 21st CenturyRefusing to deal with numbers rarely serves the interests of the least well-off.” I hope that legacy remains. There is still a lot to be done.

The search for my replacement is open. Here’s the link. Please share.

The ultimate measure of progress or skirting the issue…? Thoughts spurred by the Third UN World Happiness Report

Katherine Trebeck, Global Research Policy Adviser (@KTrebeck)

The growing pool of wellbeing and happiness research reveals some interesting patterns. For example, the third World Happiness Report (published April 2015 and edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs) is informed by Gallup data which asks people to position themselves on a ‘life evaluation ladder’. The results show Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia at the top of the happiness rankings. At the other end of the scale, pretty intuitively, the worst performing countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, with the addition of Afghanistan and a Syria – many of which have experienced terrible war and terrorism.

The authors identify differences in social support, incomes, and healthy life expectancy as the most important explanatory factors. But they were able to assess only a small set of variables and could not take account of issues such as unemployment or inequality (due to lack of comparable international data). Even at a glance one can posit other important factors not included in the analysis – for example all of the top 10 countries have relatively high levels of social mobility.  But that’s a discussion for another day…

Perhaps more instrumentally, just as saying a wine is ‘interesting’ doesn’t tell you how to make the wine, interest in the wellbeing and happiness data doesn’t obviously lead to better policy making. While happiness and wellbeing are compelling because they are ends in themselves (there is no more ‘because’ or ‘therefore’), policy makers lack a lever called ‘happiness’. So they need to take a step back and pull the levers that they know influence happiness. In other words, policy makers need to manipulate what Amartya Sen has called the ‘habitat of happiness’ – the context in which people live their lives and which shapes their capabilities.

Yet Lord Richard Layard, one of the report’s authors, seems to think there is a policy lever called ‘happiness’ based on his recommendation for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for people experiencing mental ill-health. While CBT can be an effective treatment, relying on it as a policy tool seems to ignore that often it is people’s circumstances that need to change.

As Will Davies (author of The Happiness Industry) warns, such prescriptions demonstrate how wellbeing has become too individualised and medicalised. You can go to the doctor and seek a prescription for stress or anxiety, rather than an explanation. The wellbeing agenda focuses too much on the individual as the agent of change (with the obligation that we become more resilient), rather than institutional or political transformation.

A little like turning up the volume on your headphones while a riot rages around you.

And this seems to point to the crux of the problem with the growing wellbeing agenda – skirting the issue, avoiding the real culprit, even blaming the victim…


On another note, I’m struck by a statement at the beginning of the report: “Governments are measuring subjective well-being, and using well-being research as a guide to the design of public spaces and the delivery of public services”.

Undeniably, governments and other statistical agencies are collecting more data about people’s self reported wellbeing….but, they do so in the context of a persistent emphasis on ‘recovery’ of the economic model that preceded the Global Financial Crisis. Though I would be delighted to be proven wrong, examples of governments actually using wellbeing and happiness data to ‘guide’ the design and delivery of policies – to the point that economic objectives are demoted – remain rare.

Instead we see the Indian Prime Minister’s plan to undercut child labour laws and other worker rights to stimulate economic growth. Or the UK Prime Minister’s promise that if re-elected he would focus on “economy, economy, economy” in the party’s first 100 days in power. Or the way the IMF criticises staggering levels of inequality because of the deleterious impact on economic growth (ie a business case, not one based on justice or fairness).

And even in the home of the World Happiness Report itself, we see the economy trump other objectives. The first Report was released as a ‘foundational text’ for the 2012 UN High Level Meeting on “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. While this meeting elegantly identified the need for a new economic paradigm, less than two years later, there was a tangible shift in language: now the talk was of a new development paradigm. Apparently the economic model is not up for grabs, despite it being at the heart of so many of our problems, both collective and individual, both community and environmental.

Finally, so as not to close on too much of a downer – which would be inappropriate in a blog about happiness – I do like this in the Report’s conclusion:

Economic and social life is rife with “social dilemmas,” in which the common good and individual incentives may conflict. In such cases, pro-social behavior – including honesty, benevolence, cooperation, and trustworthiness – is key to achieving the best outcome for society.

I’m just not sure we needed to wait for happiness and subjective wellbeing measures to tell us that.

Welcome to the Data Revolution

(Claire shares her views on the Cartagena Data Festival. I will share my own views, but I wanted to repost this blog first published in Development Progress – RFN)

Author:  Claire Melamed (@clairemelamed)

Take 457 interesting, clever and enthusiastic people. Put them in a beautiful tropical setting for three days.  Add a dash of art and music, sit back and watch the ideas flow.

This was the happy position I was in last week, as the Cartagena Data Festival finally happened, after nearly a year of planning and incredibly hard work by all involved. And what a week it was. We heard from governments, from companies and from NGOs. We debated privacy and discussed indicators of human welfare. We coded and we danced. But most of all, we found a group of like-minded people, all there not because they cared about data for data’s sake, but about data used to improve people’s lives.

We all know that the data aren’t good enough.  For some issues, such as maternal mortality, the data are so poor that the real rate at which women are dying might be twice as high as we think it is. This matters. Governments cannot plan and deliver effective services, if they don’t know the scale and the distribution of the problems they are trying to solve. People and organisations cannot hold those governments to account if they don’t know how and where money is spent, and what the outcomes are.

Festival-goers heard about what’s already happening to change all this. From improving education in Kenya to improving rubbish collection in Buenos Aires, from providing information to farmers in Colombia to understanding the dynamics of rural poverty in the Philippines, time, energy and money are being put to work for better data and better decisions all over the world. The festival was the chance for the ‘doers’ to get together and get practical.

There was a political dimension too.  We’re at a moment where, maybe for the first time, there’s political energy and momentum around fixing the problems with data. Through the UN, governments are about to agree the new set of Sustainable Development Goals, that will set the benchmark for progress for the next 15 years. Achieving the goals will require better data for making policy. Measuring progress towards these goals will require better data for monitoring. All this will take investments, take innovations, and take ideas. That is also what Cartagena was about.

Governments were there to think together about how to make the right investments to meet the growing expectations of their populations and of international organisations for more and better data. International organisations, donors, the private sector and academics were there to share ideas about how to do that. Civil society organisations were there to share their experiences of collecting and using the data that allow citizens to know if governments are keeping their promises. A group of journalists led a very lively session on how to get all of this across to the general public.

I’m still processing all of the ideas that came out of the three days. But it’s already very evident that getting people together in one place – especially those who don’t usually get a chance to talk to each other – was a hugely valuable exercise. At least 10 people have already asked me if there’ll be another one next year. There’s clearly demand for a regular World Forum on Data, a Global Partnership on Data, or some such entity, to keep the momentum going.

Cartagena was special – not just the Festival, but also the city and the venue – one of the most beautiful places I’ve been lucky enough to visit. It felt like the start of something big and something special. And, I hope, something lasting that is emerging from the past 12 months of excitement about the data revolution.

Property and Politics in the UK – what we learned from the Sunday Times Rich List

Deborah Hardoon, Senior Researcher at Oxfam GB (@DeborahHardoon)

Yesterday, the Sunday Times published its annual Rich List of the 1,000 wealthiest people in the UK. Their wealth has been booming, more than doubling in the last 10 years and increasing from £519billion to £547billion in the last year alone. In one year, that’s a £28billion increase, or £3million more every single hour that sits in the land, property, assets or shares of the very richest (data does not include bank accounts).

Oxfam recognises that you can’t look at the wealth of the very richest in isolation. The money and power at the top impacts the rest of us, too.

Let’s look at property – the sector where 161 of the 1,000 richest people are listed as having interests. The collective wealth of these 161 people is £117billion. These individuals and families recorded an increase from the previous year of $14bil and that’s not including the increase in the wealth of the 7 individuals that are new to the list. Ninety-six people on the Rich List are listed as having made their money exclusively from property and, for the other 65, property forms at least part of their money making projects. Owning property in the UK can be very profitable, as house prices continue to rise (7.2% in the last year and almost 10% in London). Some of these properties, very much seen as assets rather than homes, are simply left empty. This is a time when demand continues to outstrip supply for houses in the UK and when Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, believes that the housing crisis is “the biggest risk” to the UK economy. The housing and homeless charity Shelter released a report last month highlighting the stark inequality of access to the housing ladder in the UK between those than can afford to buy homes (the flyers) and those that increasingly struggle (the triers). Owning a house in the UK is becoming increasingly elusive for poorer people whilst the property millionaires watch their fortunes grow.

Not only do the richest continue to make more money, they have huge influence when they spend it. Last week the Sunday Times published a list of the biggest political donors (it is no surprise that almost half the individuals on last week’s list also feature on the Rich List). It found that 25 individuals were responsible for one quarter of all party donations. Starting with the wealthiest, Galen and George Western, the 3rd wealthiest in the UK on this year’s Rich List, with $11billion, donated £100,000 to the Conservative Party. David and Simon Reuben, with a wealth of just under $10billion, donated more than £300,000 to the Conservative party. Lakshmi Mittal and family with a wealth of over £9billion donated £1million to the Labour party.

In January, we published a report which highlighted the extent of wealth inequality (that 80 people stat). This same report also looked at how much companies in different sectors spend on lobbying, to deliberately influence policies. The data analysed in the report shows us how wealthy individuals are financing our political system, bringing them access and influence that the rest of us could never dream of.

Runaway wealth is not just a story about people at the top, it affects all of us through our economy and political system and that’s why Oxfam is working to Even It Up and end extreme and rising inequality around the world.

Is a data revolution under way, and if so, who will benefit?

Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (@rivefuentes)

A spectre is haunting the hallways of the international bureaucracy and national statistical offices – the spectre of the data revolution.  Now, that might suggest a contradiction in terms or the butt of a joke – it’s hard to imagine a platoon of bespectacled statisticians with laptops and GIS devices toppling governments. But something important is indeed happening –let me try and convince you.

A new research report by ODI, “Data Revolution – Finding The Missing Million”, (launched yesterday in Cartagena during a Data Festival) tries to make sense of the coming data revolution and what it means for international development. According to the authors: The data revolution is “an explosion in the volume of data, the speed with which data are produced, the number of producers of data, the dissemination of data, and the range of things on which there are data, coming from new technologies such as mobile phones and the internet of things and from other sources, such as qualitative data, citizen-generated data and perceptions data.

For the numerically minded (I proudly include myself in this group) this is a rather welcome transformation. Data, data everywhere – but then why haven’t we, number geeks, solved all of the world’s problems yet?

This is where things get interesting in the report. There are two (for simplicity) main sources of statistics: official and alternative. They both present advantages and particular challenges.

Official development statistics are, for instance, rather expensive, infrequent and often miss the extremes of the distribution. The report indicates that, globally, as many as 350 million people are not covered by official household surveys – most of them either very rich or very poor.

This gap creates massive problems for the most basic of global statistics. Take global income poverty, for instance. According to Laurence Chandy from the Brookings Institution, the ‘fact’ that 25% of the people living in extreme poverty ($1.25 a day) are in sub-Saharan Africa – some 414 million people – is derived by extrapolating from household surveys dating from 2005 or earlier.

There are a lot of expectations about the potential of alternative sources, such as mobile phone generated data, but they are not without difficulties. The databases generated from these alternative sources are messy, often lack methodological consistency and require a lot of pruning and computing power to make basic sense of them.

But revolutions are supposed to be messy. One of the main challenges, the report argues, is the fight for space between official statistics and these alternative sources. This is, in a way, to be expected, as technological advances change the control of who generates statistics and how they’re used. There is some news that indicates that in Tanzania, for instance, the use of non-official statistics could even be criminalized.

In short, the data revolution does have a political economy element. And its success will depend on whether official statisticians see the benefit of working together with outside data scientists to learn more about the condition of a given country.

What are the opportunities to make use of these changes for the benefit of the poorest? There are two that I identify: how to use the increased availability of data for accountability and how to close the digital divide.

It won’t be easy though. There is hope that more information will automatically make governments at all levels more accountable but this seems naive. The report quotes Rakesh Rajani, formerly at Twaweza, an East African organization focusing on citizen accountability:  “There are problems of power and agency – they are the largest challenges for use of data-feedback. Just having new data or ways of analysing doesn’t trump those constraints. If the government was non-responsive before, technology and data won’t solve the problem or suddenly turn it into more responsive. Data doesn’t assure you that voice will count

Similarly, on the digital divide, the problem will not go away solely by improving data collection. The authors give an example in New Zealand relating to the Maori population: “Many Maori do not perceive themselves has having benefitted much from the data collection and use of data. They perceive a real and immediate risk of greater data availability being used for ethnic profiling to their detriment

All this suggests that data availability and measurement innovation will not be enough. There is a need for more data-driven active citizenship – or citizen engagement that makes use of all this new information to promote inclusive policies and projects and ensure effective and appropriate use of resources. The report provides several examples of where this is happening already: Citizen-led poverty lines in Asia (much higher than the accepted $1.25 a day); Dwelling surveys used to negotiate resettlements in Mumbai; Community organizations questioning the Ugandan government about the failure to meet commitments on health expenditure and increase health allocation, among others.

The report contains a lot more information and it’s hard to do justice to it on a blog (measuring poverty using roof materials as proxy, collected by satellite data? check; the rise of the Silicon Savannah in Kenya? check). It has a series of recommendations that seem obvious given the problems described – I found some of them, particularly the quick fixes, lacking in imagination. But overall the report is a very welcome piece – an easy, rather enjoyable read despite the seemingly esoteric topic.

So does this constitute a revolution or am I getting nerdily over-excited? I think new sources and, more importantly, effective use of this avalanche of data will turn many aspects of conventional government upside down, with huge potential to transform power and politics – if not ‘revolution’, what else would you call it?’

Graphs of the day: on labour unions and income inequality

Author: Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva  (@rivefuentes)

Al Jazeera America has an opinion piece today on why unions still matter.  It shows this graph from a paper by Larry Mishel and Will Kimbal at the Economic Policy Institute.


Mishel and Kimball build upon previous work  by Colin Gordon who concludes,

Labor unions both sustained prosperity, and ensured that it was shared. The impact of all of this on wage or income inequality is a complex question (shaped by skill, occupation, education, and demographics) but the bottom line is clear: There is a demonstrable wage premium for union workers.”

Continue reading

A Glimpse of South Africa’s Multi-Layered Inequality

Author: Katherine Trebeck, Global Research Policy Adviser, Oxfam Great Britain @ktrebeck

It started at the boarding gate at Heathrow.

Of South Africa’s 54 million population, the majority are black (80 per cent), compared to 9 percent white. Yet at Gate C54 where a flight from London to Johannesburg was boarding, almost every person in the queue seemed to be white. Of course I knew that South Africa’s economic inequality followed racial lines. But as I got on the plane (for a trip to work with colleagues and to visit some community projects), I have to admit feeling shocked that this aspect of inequality was so visibly manifest in a little microcosm of privilege and wealth.

Another dimension of this inequality is seen in the extent of food insecurity – one in four people in South Africa are hungry on a regular basis. One might think that such statistics concur with how we ‘Heathrow-istas’ too easily stereotype ‘Africa’ – as a monolithic country in a constant state of drought, famine and war. Yet, that is far from the reality – South Africa is, in fact, ‘food-secure’; i.e. it produces enough calories to feed every citizen.

That so many go hungry is a matter of distribution, not scarcity.

Continue reading

Are We Ready to Leapfrog with Renewable Energy?

Author: John Magrath, Programme Researcher, Oxfam Great Britain

In ‘Here Comes the Sun’ Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva asked, ‘could it be possible that there is already an explosion in renewable energy capacity, technology and investment underway that is not really being picked up by policy makers and media?’ He went on to argue bullishly that this is indeed the case.

The latest global assessment of trends in renewable energy investments gives further backing to the argument – and suggests that renewables are increasingly close to bursting the seams of the straitjacket of structural constraints imposed by current energy systems. In so doing, they will likely challenge the entire infrastructure of, and business models behind, the gridded power systems that so many of us have grown up with.

Continue reading

What’s After Piketty? Atkinson’s Concrete Proposals.

Author: Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (@rivefuentes)

Tony Atkinson, the doyen of income and wealth inequality studies, has a new book titled “Inequality- What Can Be Done?”

I bought Atkinson’s book as soon as it hit the bookstore a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t finished it yet. I did read, however, his article “After Piketty” in the British Journal of Sociology some time ago, which is a good curtain raiser for the whole book – about which I’ll write more when I finish my reading.

Atkinson and Thomas Piketty (along with others) have worked together for several years, including in the gathering of the World Top Incomes Database, which has allowed us to understand the dynamics of concentration of income in several countries. In fact, in the first pages of his book, Piketty argues that his work wouldn’t have been possible without the “enthusiastic support” of Anthony Atkinson and Emmanuel Saez. So it’s natural that some of Atkinson’s analysis is closely connected to Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

Continue reading