BRITAIN’S foremost economic think-tank today launches what it calls is the “most comprehensive scientific analysis of inequalities yet attempted”.

The five yearlong review by the Institute for Fiscal Studies is being chaired by Scottish Professor Sir Angus Deaton, 73, who in 2015 won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the analysis will not only attempt to describe inequalities across the UK today – in income, wealth, health, social mobility, political participation and more – but also to understand what causes them and to offer concrete policy proposals to tackle them.

The think-tank noted: “Sir Angus will observe that when the rules of the game are rigged or when great inequalities in income and wealth result in great inequalities in political power and economic opportunity, then they risk disrupting both our democracy and our prosperity.”

It said the academic, based at Princeton University in the US, would point to the risk of the UK following America, where wages for non-college-educated men had not risen for five decades and where rising mortality for less-educated white men and women in middle age had caused average life expectancy in America to fall for the last three years; something that had not happened for a century.

Paul Johnson, the IFS’s Director, explained: “I can’t think of anything more important than understanding what drives the inequalities we see today and working out what we might do to influence them.

“Everything from early childhood education to the regulation of ‘big tech,’ from the design of the benefit system to the effects of globalisation, from the role of men and women in the home to the design of corporate governance, matters for producing the outcomes we see. We will be examining them all.”

In an accompanying report, IFS researchers Robert Joyce and Xiaowei Xu set out a small selection of the key facts about inequality in the UK which have motivated the review. These include:

*income inequality in the UK is high by international standards and of other major economies, only the US has higher income inequality;

*despite this, inequality in total net household income has changed little since rising sharply in the 1980s with the UK’s system of state transfers, especially tax credits, having been very successful at mitigating rising inequality;

*about one in six children in the UK are born to single parents, a phenomenon heavily concentrated in low-income and low-educated families and which is significantly less prevalent in continental Europe;

*women’s employment has risen dramatically from 57 per cent in 1975 to 78 per cent in 2017 and

*the gender hourly wage gap is strongly associated with childbirth and rises from less than 10 per cent at the point of childbirth to 30 per cent 12 years after the first child is born, reflecting an extraordinary lack of earnings progression for mothers, particularly for those who work part-time.

John McDonnell for Labour said: “With inequality tearing apart the fabric of our society, I’m delighted it’s finally beginning to get the attention it deserves.

“Sir Angus is right to highlight the problems of stagnant wages and regional inequality as well as the importance of trade unions for addressing inequality.

“I congratulate the IFS on the launch of this important piece of research and look forward to studying its work,” added the Shadow Chancellor.