How Deep are the Roots of Swedish Egalitarianism? A multidimensional approach


  • Johan Ericsson Department of Economic History, Uppsala University
  • Jakob Molinder Department of Economic History, Uppsala University



inequality, distribution, education, wealth, wages


When did Sweden become equal? This question has far-reaching implications for our understanding of Swedish history, as well as for theories about inequality, institutions, and politics more broadly. In this article, we present the first multidimensional comparative analysis of the development of inequality in Sweden. Unlike most other studies, we combine a variety of measures to provide a more comprehensive view of inequality. Our findings reveal that, although the share of income and wealth accruing to the absolute top was very high at the beginning of the 20th century, Sweden was more equal than many other countries when focusing on the lower parts of the income distribution. Additionally, several indicators suggest that the decline in inequality began in the decades before the turn of the 19th century. These results imply that the development of the Swedish welfare state was both a cause and a consequence of decreasing inequality. We emphasize the importance of widespread access to education as a key factor in shaping distributional outcomes.