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On Thursday, February 8, Thomas Piketty joined Markus’ Academy for a conversation on his book, “A Brief History of Equality.” Thomas Piketty is a Professor of Economics and Economic History at EHESS and at the Paris School of Economics as well as co-director of the World Inequality Lab and the World Inequality Database.

Watch the full presentation below. You can watch all Markus’ Academy webinars on our Markus’ Academy YouTube Channel.


[0:00] Markus’ introduction and poll questions
[5:26] The state of equality today
[21:45] Brief history of equality
[34:21] How did the transformation happen?
[42:52] Looking to the future


  • A summary in four bullets
    • Recent efforts to improve our data on inequality have yielded two main findings. The first is that income distributions are very different across countries. The second is that these distributions can change over time.
    • The book is a (shorter and clearer) synthesis of previous work. It tries to emphasize that we have already seen huge historical reductions in inequality in the past, and argues that these reductions in inequality secured sustained productivity growth.
    • In Europe the share of income to the top 10% used to be ~50% while now it is ~30%. The new patrimonial middle class (50-90th percentiles) owns 40% of the wealth, so a lot of people are economically secure. In a sense wealth inequality is a measure of inequality of opportunity.
    • The book makes two proposals: a drastic increase in educational investment and a universal inheritance of €120k upon turning 25 years old, to be funded with a wealth tax and higher inheritance taxes.
  • Download the full summary here.