Wealth Distribution in Ireland: new data, new insights

Tuesday, 1st March 2016. Management House, Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street, Dublin 2.

The seminar consisted of a presentation from Rory Hearne of TASC, followed by questions and debate. The slides from the presentation are available here.

Presentation Abstract

Understanding the distribution of wealth is central to our understanding of economic inequality. Highly unequal societies are typified by high levels of wealth concentration, where wealth is held by very few people. Wealth tends to be distributed more unequally than income, and a highly unequal distribution of wealth causes problems for both the economy and society.

Measuring wealth is notoriously difficult. There is a lack of administrative data on wealth holdings, while surveys of wealth typically underestimate the wealth of those at the top.

Until recently, very little was known about the distribution of wealth in Ireland. The most comprehensive study of wealth in Ireland was from Nolan in 1991, which relied on data from 1987. The publication in 2015 of the results of the CSO’s “Household Finance and Consumption Survey”, part of a Euro-area survey, has generated new data on wealth in Ireland.

This presentation presents an analysis of this new data aimed at establishing new insights into the current distribution of wealth in Ireland and how it has changed over time. It also looks at what is driving the distribution of wealth in Ireland including real assets, financial assets, land and debt. The paper looks at the wealth by different household structures, including single adults, couples without children, couples with children and single-parent households. The presentation is based on TASC research on Ireland’s wealth distribution.


​Speaker biography: Rory Hearne is Senior Policy Analyst in TASC, the Think Tank for Action on Social Change. He has a PhD in Political and Economic Geography from Trinity College Dublin and worked as a Post-Doctoral researcher with the Department of Sociology, Maynooth on the impacts of austerity on human rights. Rory was also a Lecturer in Political and Economic Geography in the Department of Geography, Maynooth. He also worked as a policy researcher and community development worker with Barnardos and the inner-city Dolphin House Community Project. He has researched and published extensively in the areas of housing, politics, political economy, privatisation, human rights, social movements, and community development. He is author of the book Public Private Partnerships in Ireland published by Manchester University Press (2011).

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