How the Great Recession changed class inequality: Evidence from 23 European countries

Soc Sci Res. 2023 Jul;113:102829. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2022.102829. Epub 2022 Nov 18.


The question of whether economic recessions increase or decrease the earnings gap between the working and upper-middle class is debated. We study this issue and examine the Great Recession period using two different analytical strategies: three-level multilevel models and multivariate analysis over time. Based on EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) data in 23 countries from 2004 to 2017, our results under both analytical strategies provide robust evidence that, by and large, the Great Recession widened the earnings gap between the working and upper-middle class. The effect magnitude is sizable; an increase of 5 percentage points in the unemployment rate is associated with an increase in the class earnings gap of approximately 0.10 log points.

Keywords: Countercyclicality; Cumulative (dis)advantage; Earnings inequality; Great recession; Social class.

MeSH terms

  • Economic Recession
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Social Conditions
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Unemployment*