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Sir Anthony Barnes "Tony" Atkinson[1] CBE FBA (4 September 1944 – 1 January 2017) was a British economist, senior research fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics.[2]

Tony Atkinson

Tony Atkinson - Festival Economia 2015.JPG
Tony Atkinson at the Festival of Economics in Trento, May 2015
Anthony Barnes Atkinson

(1944-09-04)4 September 1944
Caerleon, Wales
Died1 January 2017(2017-01-01) (aged 72)
Oxford, England
Spouse(s)Judith Mandeville
InstitutionNuffield College, Oxford
London School of Economics
FieldEconomics of income distribution, poverty, micro-economics
School or
Neo-Keynesian economics
Alma materCambridge University
John Micklewright
InfluencesJames Meade
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

A student of James Meade, Atkinson virtually single-handedly established the modern British field of inequality and poverty studies. He worked on inequality and poverty for over four decades.[3][4]


Education and careerEdit

Atkinson attended Cranbrook School.[5] After considering studying mathematics, he graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1966 with a first-class degree before spending time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[6] He cited his interest in inequality as beginning from volunteering in a German hospital in the 1960s and studying the work of Peter Townsend.[7]

He served as Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, from 1994 to 2005. Before that he held positions at the University of Cambridge, University College London, the London School of Economics, the University of Essex and the University of Oxford.[8] He also edited the Journal of Public Economics.[9]


Atkinson's work was predominantly on income distributions. But he also worked on a wide field of other economic and social questions including taxation, wealth distribution, the economics of the welfare state, health economics, and poverty.[10] In his long career he published over 350 research papers and authored 24 books.[11]

The Atkinson index, an inequality measure, is named after him.[12] In a joint article with Joseph Stiglitz, he laid one of the cornerstones for the theory of optimal taxation.[13]

In his 2015 publication Inequality: What Can Be Done?, he "called for robust taxation of the rich whom he reckons have got off easily over the last generation."[3][14][15]

He recommended government intervention in markets such as employment guarantees and wage controls to influence the redistribution of economic rewards.[3] He traced the history of inequality, coining the phrase the "inequality turn" to describe the period when household inequality began to rise around 1980. From the 1980s onwards, men and women "tended to marry those who earned like themselves", with rich women marrying rich men. As more women joined the workforce inequality increased.[3]

Atkinson examined how the wealthy disproportionately influence public policy and influence governments to implement policies that protect wealth.[3] He presented a set of policies regarding technology, employment, social security, the sharing of capital, and taxation that could shift the inequality in income distribution in developed countries.[16] He also advocated the introduction of a basic income.[17]

Before his death he was working on a book on global poverty. Atkinson died before he was able to complete the book, but at his request it was edited for publication by two of his colleagues, John Micklewright and Andrea Brandolini. This book–'Measuring Poverty around the World'–was published posthumously in May 2019.[18]


Atkinson, who worked on inequality and poverty for more than four decades, was a mentor to Thomas Piketty (author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century); they worked together on building an historical database on top incomes.[3] Piketty described him as "the godfather of historical studies of income and wealth."[19]

Membership and honoursEdit

He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1984, a Fellow of the Econometric Society in 1974, Honorary Member of the American Economic Association in 1985 and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994.[20]

He was President of the Econometric Society in 1988.[21] He was knighted in 2000 and made a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 2001. He was the first person to be honoured with the A.SK Social Science Award by the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB Social Science Center in Berlin) in 2007.[22] He was president of the board of the Luxembourg Income Study, having advised on its creation in the 1980s.[23]

In 2016, Atkinson received the Dan David Prize for 'combatting poverty'.[24]

Personal life and deathEdit

Atkinson was married to Judith Mandeville, whom he met at Cambridge. The couple had three children. Atkinson died on 1 January 2017 from multiple myeloma in Oxford, England, aged 72.[7][25]



  • Atkinson, Anthony B.; Harrison, Allan J. (1978). Distribution of personal wealth in Britain. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521217354.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B.; Stiglitz, Joseph E. (1980). Lectures on public economics. London New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. ISBN 9780070841055.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (1983). The economics of inequality. Oxford Oxfordshire New York: Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198772088.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (1995). Incomes and the welfare state: essays on Britain and Europe. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521557962.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (1996). Public economics in action: the basic income/flat tax proposal. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198292166.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (1999). The economic consequences of rolling back the welfare state. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262011716.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B.; Bourguignon, François (2000). Handbook of income distribution. Amsterdam New York: Elvesier. ISBN 9780444816313.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B; Stern, Nicholas H.; Glennerster, Howard (2000). Putting economics to work: volume in honour of Michio Morishima. 22. London: London School of Economics and Political Science, and the STICERD – Suntory-Toyota International Centre for Economics and Related Disciplines. ISBN 9780753013991.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2004). New sources of development finance. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199278558.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B.; Piketty, Thomas (2007). Top incomes over the Twentieth Century: a contrast between Continental European and English-speaking countries. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199286881.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2008). The changing distribution of earnings in OECD countries. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199532438.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B.; Piketty, Thomas (2010). Top incomes: a global perspective. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199286898.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2014). Public economics in an age of austerity. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781138018150.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2014). Inequality: What Can Be Done?. Harvard University Press. p. 384. ISBN 9780674504769.
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2019). Measuring Poverty around the World, Princeton University Press.

Chapters in booksEdit

  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2002), "Globalization and the European welfare state at the opening and the closing of the twentieth century", in Kierzkowski, Henryk (ed.), Europe and globalization, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 249–273, ISBN 9780333998397
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2008), "Concentration among the rich", in Davies, James B (ed.), Personal wealth from a global perspective, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 64–89, ISBN 9780199548897
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. (2009), "Welfare economics and giving for development", in Kanbur, Ravi; Basu, Kaushik (eds.), Arguments for a better world: essays in honor of Amartya Sen | Volume I: Ethics, welfare, and measurement, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 489–500, ISBN 9780199239115

Journal articlesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Atkinson, A.B. (Anthony Barnes), 1944–". Library of Congress. Retrieved 17 July 2014. CIP t.p. (A.B. Atkinson, London School of Economics) data sheet (b. 09-04-44)
  2. ^ "Tony Atkinson – Biography". Tony Atkinson – personal website. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Mind the Gap: Anthony Atkinson, the godfather of inequality research, on a growing problem", The Economist, 6 June 2015, retrieved 7 June 2015
  4. ^ Armbruster, Alexander; Berger, Gerald Brown. "Der große Ungleichheitsforscher ist tot". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  5. ^ "Cranbrook School – Alumni". Cranbrook School. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Britischer Ökonom Atkinson ist tot". Spiegel Online. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b Giles, Chris; O'Connor, Sarah. "Sir Tony Atkinson, economist and campaigner, 1944-2017". Financial Times. Nomura. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  8. ^ ATKINSON, Sir Anthony Barnes, (Sir Tony), Who's Who 2015, A & C Black, 2015; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014.
  9. ^ "VoxEU author page". CEPR. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Selected Articles by Topic – Tony Atkinson". Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Tony Atkinson – Personal Website of Sir Anthony B. Atkinson". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  12. ^ Atkinson, AB (1970) On the measurement of inequality. Journal of Economic Theory, 2 (3), pp. 244–263, doi:10.1016/0022-0531(70)90039-6
  13. ^ Atkinson, A. B., and J. E. Stiglitz (1976), The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation, Journal of Public Economics, 6 (1-2): 55-75, doi:10.1016/0047-2727(76)90041-4
  14. ^ Atkinson, Anthony B. (2014). Inequality: What Can Be Done?. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674504769.
  15. ^ Atkinson, Tony. "The 15 Proposals from Tony Atkinson's 'Inequality – What can be done?'". Tony Atkinson (personal website). Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Review of Inequality: What Can Be Done?", Harvard University Press, 2015, retrieved 7 June 2015
  17. ^ Atkinson, Anthony B. (2011) „Basic Income: Ethics, Statistics and Economics”,; accessed 13 May 2017.
  18. ^ "Book: 'Measuring Poverty around the World' – Tony Atkinson". Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  19. ^ Chu, Ben (29 May 2015). "Sir Anthony Atkinson and the curious optimism of the godfather of inequality". The Independent. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  21. ^ "In Memoriam: Anthony B. Atkinson". Econometric Society. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  22. ^ "Curriculum Vitae – Sir Tony Atkinson". Nuffield College, Oxford. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  23. ^ "We mourn the loss of Tony Atkinson, LIS President". Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Professor Sir Tony Atkinson wins prestigious award for work on poverty". Oxford Martin School. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Anthony Atkinson: The economist who battled against inequality has died". 2 January 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017.

External linksEdit

Educational offices
Preceded by
Kaushik Basu
President of the Human Development and Capability Association
September 2012 – September 2014
Succeeded by
Henry S. Richardson