Wealth, Elites and Tax Justice

This programme analyses wealth as a fundamental driver of inequality dynamics, ranging from the global down to the urban scale. Our team examines how wealth inequality affects the politics of taxation, the entrenchment of race and gender divides, and the renewed significance of inheritance and elites. 

This programme draws on the expertise of numerous LSE academics from different Departments, and from our international partners, including those in the global south.

Professor Mike Savage


This research programme is led by Professor Mike Savage.

Economic concerns with inequality have tended to focus on the nature and extent of income inequality, which is now well known to be growing in many nations since the 1980s. However, income inequality is only the tip of the iceberg. Following the influential arguments of Thomas Piketty, which rework Marx’s emphasis on capital accumulation, it is increasingly realised that wealth is a more fundamental driver of inequality dynamics. Whereas analyses of the distribution of income inequality are often pitched as reflections of the significance of skill and human capital for affecting income differences, focusing on wealth opens up bigger concerns about the processes driving wealth accumulation, inheritance and privilege. The build-up of wealth can frequently be seen as ‘unearned income’ linked to the proliferation of rent extraction processes and asset markets, which thus threatens liberal and meritocratic values. Yet, although wealth is critical to the analysis of economic inequality, it is more difficult to theorise and measure than income. Wealth assets take numerous forms and can be concealed. Wealth is also highly mobile and cannot so easily be associated with national formations as income inequality.

In emphasising the fundamental ways in which wealth inequality affects societies, our interests are necessarily wide ranging, but we focus our work through dedicated programmes of study in specific areas. 


  • Complex systems of secrecy (forthcoming) 

Research focus and aims

This programme conducts innovative interdisciplinary research bridging the economic analysis of wealth with analyses of the social, cultural and political aspects of intensifying wealth inequalities. We thus aim to expose the seriousness of wealth divides not purely in economic terms, but also as underpinning and underscoring a wide array of social divisions.

Our work demonstrates the systemic social challenges that wealth inequality presents. We draw together economists, anthropologists, media scholars, political scientists, sociologists, social policy researchers, historians, legal scholars. Our work includes prize winning academic publications (including the award of the Siegfried Landshut Prize by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research for Mike Savage’s 2021 book, The Return of Inequality). We are committed to analysing the challenge on wealth inequality on a global basis, and although some of our research centres on the UK, we also pursue ground-breaking studies of the comparative analysis of wealth inequality, such as by Nora Waitkus. As well as analysing the challenges of wealth inequality, we are concerned with identifying on strategies to challenge this, including innovative work in political communication by Michael Vaughan. Here, we also work with campaigning groups, such as the Runnymede Trust. This comparative research is assisted by active collaboration with the Atlantic Fellows programme in Social and Economic Equity.

We are concerned with the promotion of global financial transparency, offshore wealth, and tax avoidance. Strategies seeking to challenge wealth inequality also require interventions about more positive conceptions of wealth, (e.g., local wealth building strategies, strategies for reaffirming democratic ideals of equal human worth and dignity in the face of growing economic disparities perceived as reflecting the unequal social or moral worth of individuals).

This programme drew on the expertise of numerous LSE academics from different Departments, and from our international partners, including those in the global south. We have especially strong relationships in Africa with the African Centre for Excellence in Inequality Research, led by Murray Leibbrandt at UCT, and the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at University of Witwatersrand which has a specific project on Intergenerational Wealth and Taxation. In South America, we work closely the Chilean Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES) who have a programme of research.


David Burgherr, (Visiting Fellow, LSE III)

Asif Butt, (PhD student, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Professor Neil Cummins, (Professor, Department of Economic History, LSE)

Professor Sam Friedman, (Professor, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Dr Luna Glucksberg, (Research Affiliate, LSE III, LSE)

Victoria Gronwald,(PhD student, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Eleni Karagiannaki, (Associate Professorial Research Fellow, Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE)

Dr George Kunnath,(Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, LSE III III, LSE)

Babette May,(PhD student, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Dr Annalena Oppel, (LSE Fellow in Inequalities, LSE)

Marta Pagnini, (PhD student, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Professor Mike Savage, (Professor, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Dr Elisabeth Schimpfössl,(Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Policy, Aston University)

Dr Andy Summers, (Associate Professor of Law, LSE)

Dr Kate Summers, (British Academy post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Methodology, LSE)

Dr Kristin Surak, (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, LSE)

Dr Nora Waitkus, (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Tilburg University & Research Officer, LSE III)

Grace Wyld, (Affiliate, LSE III)

Dr Arun Advani, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Warwick

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, (Professor, Department of Sociology, University of East London)

Dr Katharina Hecht, (Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Konstanz)

Professor Corinne Squire, (Professor in Global Inequalities, University of Bristol)

Professor Johs Hjellbrekke, (Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Bergen)

Dr Maren Toft, (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Oslo)

Dr Maria Luisa Mendez Layera, (Associate Professor, Instituto de estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Professor Aaron Reeves, (Professor, Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation, University of Oxford)


Savage, Mike; Mahmoudzadeh, Mina; Mann, Elizabeth; Vaughan, Michael; Hilhorst, Sacha (2024) Why Wealth Inequality Matters. 

Advani, Arun and Summers, Andy (2022) Measuring and taxing top incomes and wealth. IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities 

Advani, Arun, Ooms, Tahnee and Summers, Andrew ORCID: 0000-0002-4978-7743 (2022) Missing incomes in the UK: evidence and policy implications. Journal of Social Policy. ISSN 0047-2794 

Advani, Arun and Tarrant, Hannah (2021) Behavioural responses to a wealth tax. Fiscal Studies, 42 (3-4). 509 - 537. ISSN 0143-5671  

Advani, Arun and Tarrant, Hannah (2021) Behavioural responses to a wealth tax. Fiscal Studies, 42 (3-4). 509 - 537. ISSN 0143-5671 

Advani, Arun, Bangham, George and Leslie, Jack (2021) The UK's wealth distribution and characteristics of high-wealth households. Fiscal Studies, 42 (3-4). 397 - 430. ISSN 0143-5671  

Advani, Arun, Bangham, George and Leslie, Jack (2021) The UK's wealth distribution and characteristics of high-wealth households. Fiscal Studies, 42 (3-4). 397 - 430. ISSN 0143-5671 

Advani, Arun, Hughson, Helen and Tarrant, Hannah (2021) Revenue and distributional modelling for a UK wealth tax. Fiscal Studies, 42 (3-4). 699 - 736. ISSN 0143-5671 

Advani, Arun, Miller, Helen and Summers, Andy (2021) Taxes on wealth: time for another look? Fiscal Studies, 42 (3-4). 389 - 395. ISSN 0143-5671 

Advani, Arun, Summers, Andrew  and Tarrant, Hannah (2021) Measuring UK top incomes. CAGE Working Paper (490). University of Warwick, Warwick, UK. 

Advani, Arun, Chamberlain, Emma, Summers, Andy (2020) A wealth tax for the UK: Final Report of the Wealth Tax Commission.  

Advani, Arun, Koenig, Felix, Pessina, Lorenzo, Summers, Andy (2020) Importing Inequality: Immigration and the Top 1 Percent, IZA Discussion Papers, No. 13731, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) 

Cummins, Neil (2022) The hidden wealth of English dynasties, 1892–2016. Economic History Review, 75 (3). 667 - 702. ISSN 0013-0117 Item availability may be restricted. 

Cummins, Neil (2021) Where is the Middle Class? Evidence from 60 million English Death and Probate Records, 1892-1992. Journal of Economic History, 81(2): 359-404.  

Díaz Pabón, F.A., Leibbrandt, M., Ranchhod, V. and Savage, M., 2021. Piketty comes to South Africa. The British Journal of Sociology, 72(1), pp.106-124.

Hecht, Katharina, Burchardt, Tania and Davis, Abigail (2022) Richness, insecurity and the welfare state. Journal of Social Policy. ISSN 0047-2794 (In Press) 

Koch, I., Fransham, M., Cant, S., Ebrey, J., Glucksberg, L. and Savage, M., 2021. Social polarisation at the local level: a four-town comparative study on the challenges of politicising inequality in Britain. Sociology, 55(1), pp.3-29.

Paidipaty, P. and Savage, M., 2021. Debating Capital and Ideology: An introduction to the special issue. The British Journal of Sociology, 72(1), pp.3-7.*

Pfeffer, Fabian T. and Waitkus, Nora (2021) Comparing child wealth inequality across countries. RSF, 7 (3). pp. 28-49. ISSN 2377-8253 

Savage, Mike  and Waitkus, Nora (2022) Property, wealth, and social change: Piketty as a social science engineer. British Journal of Sociology, 72 (1). 39 - 51.

Savage, M. 2021. The Return of Inequality: Social Change and the Weight of History, Boston, MA, Harvard UP, pp. x1 + 422. Korean and Chinese translations pending

Savage, M, and Li, C. "Introduction to thematic series “new sociological perspectives on inequality”." Journal of Chinese Sociology (2021): 1-6*.

Savage, M. and Schmidt, C.M., 2021. The politics of the excluded: abjection and reconciliation amongst the British precariat. The Journal of Chinese Sociology, 7(1), pp.1-27.

Upton-Hansen, C., Kolbe, K. and Savage, M (2021) An institutional politics of place: Rethinking the critical function of art in times of growing inequality. Cultural Sociology15(2), pp.171-190.

Waitkus, Nora and Minkus, Lara (2021) Investigating the gender wealth gap across occupational classes. Feminist Economics, 27 (4). pp. 114-147. ISSN 1354-5701 

Events and recordings 

Know Your Place: how society sets us up to fail – and what we can do about it

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute

Monday 19 June 6.30pm to 8.00pm. Online and in-person public eventAuditorium, Centre Building.

Watch the event recording

Dr Faiza Shaheen, Visiting Professor in Practice, LSE III and Program Lead on Inequality and Exclusion, NYU Center on International Cooperation
Kimberly McIntosh
Writer and Researcher
Gary Stevenson, Inequality Economist and former Trader
Professor Gary Younge, Author and Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester

Professor Mike Savage, Martin White Professor of Sociology, LSE Department of Sociology and Research Programme Leader, LSE III

This event marks the launch of Know Your Place: how society sets us up to fail – and what we can do about it, the new book by Faiza Shaheen – part memoir, part polemic, this is a personal and statistical look at how society is built, the people it leaves behind, and what we can do about it. Our panel of speakers will discuss the prospects for social mobility in Britain today, and how we can create opportunities for all.


This is Not America: why black lives in Britain matter

Hosted by LSE Festival: People and Change

Saturday 17 June 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Online and in-person public eventMarshall Building.

Watch the event recording

Tomiwa Owolade, Writer and Critic

Professor Mike Savage, Martin White Professor of Sociology LSE Department of Sociology and Research Programme Leader, LSE III

In This is Not America, Tomiwa Owolade argues that too much of the conversation around race in Britain is viewed through the prism of American ideas that don't reflect the history, challenges and achievements of increasingly diverse black populations at home. If we want to build a long-lasting and more effective anti-racist agenda - one that truly values black British communities - we must acknowledge that crucial differences exist between Britain and America; that we are talking about distinct communities and cultures, distinguished by language, history, class, religion and national origin.

The Gender of Capital: How families perpetuate wealth inequality

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute

Thursday 29 September 6.30pm to 8.00pm. Online and in-person public event. The Auditorium, LSE Centre Building.

Professor Céline Bessière, Professor of Sociology, Paris Dauphine University
Dr Sibylle Gollac, Research Fellow in Sociology, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS, CRESPPA-CSU)
Dr Sarah Trotter, Assistant Professor, LSE Law School

Professor Sam Friedman, Director of the MSc in Inequalities and Social Science and Professor, Department of Sociology, LSE

Why do women in different social classes accumulate less wealth than men? Why do marital separations impoverish women while they do not prevent men from staying or becoming wealthy? To answer these questions, Céline Bessière and Sibylle Gollac draw on their book ‘The Gender of Capital’, which brings attention to the economic relations in families. They reconsider the effectiveness of legal changes that profess formal equality between men and women, while condoning inequality in practice.

Drawing on research spanning twenty years, our speakers analyse what they call ‘family wealth arrangements’. They break with the common understanding of the family as an emotional haven of peace in a brutal capitalist world, showing how men and women do not reap the same benefits from family wealth arrangements. From the single mothers of the French ‘Yellow Vest’ movement to the divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the mechanisms of control and distribution of capital vary according to social class, yet they always result in the dispossession of women.

Capital is gendered. This event discusses how class society is perpetuated through the masculine appropriation of capital.

Watch the video

Oligarch Sanctions: policies, evasion strategies and side effects

Part of the Inequalities Seminar Series

Tuesday 2 May 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Online and in-person public eventThe Marshall Building - MAR 1.09.

Watch the event recording

Dr Elisabeth Schimpfössl, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University and Visiting Senior Fellow, LSE III

Dr Armine Ishkanian, Executive Director of AFSEE programme and Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy

Individual sanction policies have yet to deliver. In the EU and the UK in particular, legal loopholes and gentle sanction designs have given sanctioned oligarchs ample opportunities and time rearrange and evacuate their assets and non-sanctioned, and lesser-known rich to reinvent themselves as longtime Kremlin critics. Compared to the EU and the UK, where a year into the war more than half a dozen of the 20 richest Russians were missing, the US list is less patchy, but it too skipped the name ranked no 1 by Forbes Russia from April 2022. Once it was clear that the war would drag on, Western wealth industries changed tune and declared oligarch boycotts to a core corporate principle. This seminar attempts to take stock of responses to international individual sanction policies since February 2022.


Are the rich getting richer? The challenge of wealth inequality

Hosted by LSE Festival: How Do We Get to a Post-COVID World?

Speakers: Aroop Chatterjee, Research Manager on Wealth Inequality, Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, University of Witwatersrand; Dr Neil Cummins, Associate Professor of Economic History, LSE; Dr Kristin Surak, Associate Professor of Political Sociology, LSE

Professor Mike Savage, Martin White Professor of Sociology, and Convenor, Wealth, Elites and Tax Justice Research Programme, LSE III


Families and Money: Exploring Gender Inequality in Elite Families

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute and the Department of Sociology 

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast.

Speaker: Professor Annette Lareau, Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania)

Discussants: Dr Aliya Rao, Faculty Associate, LSE III and Assistant Professor in Qualitative Research Methodology; Sibylle Gollac, Research Fellow in Sociology, French National Center for Scientific Research

Chair: Dr Luna Glucksberg, Research Affliliate, LSE III



Are Countries Building Back Better?

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute

Tuesday 08 February 2022, 6:00pm to 7:30pm. Online public event. 

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast.

Speakers: Professor Ha-Joon Chang, Professor of Political Economy of Development, University of Cambridge; Dr Francis Mustapha Kai-Kai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Sierra Leone); Dr Faiza Shaheen, Visiting Professor in Practice LSE, III and Program Head for the Inequality and Exclusion Grand Challenge of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, New York University; Waleed Shahid, Spokesperson and Communications Director, Justice Democrats) 

Chair: Professor Francisco Ferreira, Director, LSE III and Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies 

Arun Advani_Warwick2 - International Inequalities Institute - III - London School of Economics - LSE - Taxing the Rich - Elites - Resized - June 2020

Global Tax Justice in the 21st Century: promises and challenges

Hosted by the Ralph Miliband Programme and the International Inequalities Institute

Tuesday 01 February 2022, 6:30pm to 8:00pm. Online public event. 

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast.

Speakers: Dr Arun Advani, Visiting Fellow, LSE III and Assistant Professor of Economics, Univeristy of Warwick; Alex Cobham, Chief Executive, Tax Justice Network; Professor Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts

Chair: Dr Robin Archer, Director, Ralph Miliband Programme, LSE) 


Past Research