LIS METadata Information System (METIS) has been launched

We are delighted to announce the launch of the LIS METadata Information System (METIS), a powerful search tool that documents the structure and content of the LIS and LWS Databases.

METIS is a simple and practical point of entry to our complex microdata. It provides immediate access to our comprehensive documentation, without the need for scrolling through hundreds of documents. METIS replaces the current documentation system which, after many years, had become archaic.

Through a new Web Interface, it is now possible to identify, browse, aggregate, and export information about the LIS and LWS Databases.

Our new documentation system:

  • includes generic, dataset-specific, and variable-specific information that can be located with a few clicks;
  • allows users to retrieve and export information based on search queries that can be customized according to users’ needs.

METIS capitalizes on exciting new technologies and on the strengths of the LIS/LWS microdata, thus better enabling and promoting the highest quality social science research.
Before conducting empirical analyses using our microdata, we strongly encourage our data users to consult METIS and the documentation that it contains.

January 12, 2017 | News

We mourn the loss of Tony Atkinson, LIS President

It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of Sir Anthony Atkinson, on January 1, 2017. Besides being the President of the LIS Board since 2011, Tony has had a fundamental – albeit discreet – role in the construction and development of LIS since its very inception in the 1980s.

Tony was an exceptional scholar of poverty and inequality, but mostly of all he will be remembered by the LIS staff for his incredible wisdom, his great modesty, his wonderful gentlemanliness, and the very much sought and follow

January 2, 2017 | Ignore on home

New Leadership Structure at LIS

Dear LIS Community,

I am happy to share the news that today is the first day of a new leadership structure at LIS. Below I offer some key information and recognize several people who have made LIS what it is, over many years

The new leadership structure

Since its inception in 1983, LIS has had a single Director, responsible for the overall operation of LIS. Tim Smeeding served in that role from 1983 to 2006. Ten years ago today, Tim handed me “the baton”, and I stepped into his shoes (a daunting assignment). Tim was, of course, joined by Lee Rainwater, who served as LIS’ Research Director from 1983 to 2005, and I was joined by Markus Jäntti, who succeeded Lee in that same position, from 2005-2014.

Since 2006, LIS has grown tremendously and it is now too large and complex to be well-served by a single Director. A few years ago, I sought guidance from our Board President, Sir Tony Atkinson, and our Executive Committee. Together, we arrived at a plan for a new leadership structure and, today, that new structure takes effect.

As of 1 September 2016, LIS will be overseen by two Directors. Daniele Checchi, an economist at the University of Milan, will serve as “Director of the Luxembourg Office of LIS”. Daniele will also take on the legal role of LIS’ Secretary General. I will serve as “Director of the US Office of LIS”; the US Office remains situated within the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). In the coming years, Daniele and I will assume differentiated responsibilities, but we will work in close cooperation, making major decisions jointly about the scope of LIS’ work and its overall priorities.

Daniele will have a partner in Luxembourg, Thierry Kruten, who will continue to serve as Director of Operations and IT Director. I will work closely with Caroline Batzdorf, who will continue as Assistant Director of the US Office and Director of Development.

Daniele, Thierry, Caroline and I look forward to working together. We four are grateful that LIS’ tremendous staff – in both offices – will remain in place (albeit with the usual pattern of periodic turnover).

A brief look back at the last ten years

I must say – with considerable pride and some amazement – that our small team in Luxembourg has accomplished a great deal since 2006. Here are some highlights:

  • We added four additional “waves” of microdata (2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013) to the LIS Database, our longstanding income database.
  • We added datasets from Japan and Korea, and then prioritized acquiring data from middle-income countries; we were able to add data for the first time from India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Serbia, and Georgia, as well as from Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay; several more new countries are in the pipeline.
  • We extensively revised our variable template, twice, markedly improving the comparability and ease-of-use of our microdata.
  • We launched and then re-launched the LWS Database, which enables our community of researchers to study assets and debt, in conjunction with other socio-economic outcomes.
  • We rebranded our institution as “LIS: Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg”, released a new website, and joined the world of social media.
  • We upgraded LISSY (our remote-execution software), making it increasingly efficient and user-friendly.
  • We built a modernized documentation system known as METIS (to be introduced this autumn).
  • We initiated several new collaborations with supranational organizations, including the World Bank, the IMF, the ILO, UNICEF, UNDP, the OECD, and the European Central Bank; we also worked with the New York Times and The Guardian on in-depth media reports based on our data.
  • We added an EU-funded Visiting Scholar program and welcomed our first pre-doctoral and post-doctoral scholars funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR).
  • We held a large international conference on “inequality and the status of middle class”; that resulted in an edited book published by Stanford University Press in 2013; the book has received uniformly excellent reviews in diverse academic journals.
  • With support from the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, in 2009, we launched the annual LIS Summer Lecture Series, which has featured prominent economists including Lawrence Mishel, Paul Krugman, Thomas Piketty, Holly Sutherland, Branko Milanovic, Stephen Jenkins, and Francisco Ferreira.
  • We helped to found a new unit at the University of Luxembourg focused on inequality scholarship.
  • We welcomed a remarkable roster of LIS Senior Scholars into our circle, including Professors Louis Chauvel, Conchita D’Ambrosio, Paul Krugman, Branko Milanovic, and Frank Cowell.
  • And, last but not least, our Luxembourg office moved from Luxembourg City to Belval, the new scientific and cultural center in southwest Luxembourg; this geographic move deepened our ties with our colleagues at the University of Luxembourg and renewed old ties with LISER (formerly CEPS).

During this past decade, there have, of course, been frustrations and disappointments as well. We have been denied access (we hope temporarily!) to microdata from a few key country participants and the financial crisis led to some funding instability. Nevertheless, all told, we close out these years as a small but robust organization, poised to retain our strengths and build on them in the coming years.

LIS rests on many shoulders

Transitions are, of course, times for reflection and acknowledgment. I want to recognize several people who built LIS and who helped me over the course of many years.

Nearly 35 years ago, Lee Rainwater and Tim Smeeding transformed a set of ideas into an accessible cross-national microdatabase and then built a small organization. Their energy and talent, and their unique partnership, gave LIS the foundation on which it sits today. After Lee’s retirement from LIS in 2005, he kept in touch and followed our accomplishments with pleasure. The LIS community grieved when Lee died in 2015; we remain grateful for the intellectual standards that he set for LIS. Tim’s immense contributions defy description; his dynamism and commitment to LIS remain the stuff of legend.

Tim and Lee were supported by colleagues in Luxembourg, who took a leap of faith in welcoming this odd little project – and later, institution – into Luxembourg. Gaston Schaber, Serge Allegrezza, Marc Cigrang, and Germain Dondelinger gave in myriad ways. Sadly, Gaston died in 2010, and Germain in 2015. As with Lee, their contributions to LIS live on. We enjoy productive relationships with Serge and Marc to this day.

Two extraordinary academics have served as LIS’ Board Presidents. Robert Erikson masterfully guided LIS through a difficult, but mercifully brief, episode of institutional instability; he was invaluable in shepherding LIS, fifteen years ago, as we transitioned into an independent non-profit organization. Tony Atkinson succeeded Robert, on 1 January 2012. Since taking over from Robert, Tony has brilliantly, graciously, and generously helped us to make a multitude of decisions. Tony always reminds us to think big and to look to the future, even when making decisions that seem small in the moment. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with both of them.

Finally, while many people in the Luxembourg Office of LIS have worked with me, and helped me, during my ten years as LIS’ overall Director, there are three people to whom I have turned for advice and support on literally thousands of occasions. When I arrived in Walferdange in June of 1990, to work at LIS, Caroline de Tombeur greeted me with warmth and wisdom; for 26 years, I have relied on her in countless ways. Since I became Director of LIS, Thierry Kruten and Teresa Munzi have linked me to the daily work of LIS, enabling me to do my job from across an ocean. I have learned an immense amount from them both, and I look forward to collaborating with them in the coming years. I am also grateful, of course, to the many talented people who have served on LIS’ data team over the years; they produce the foundation of our work.

A substantial expansion in New York

Today’s major change in Luxembourg is paired with an exciting development across the Atlantic – in New York. When I became LIS Director in 2006, I opened a small “US Office of LIS”, within my university, the Graduate Center (the doctoral-granting campus) of CUNY. In 2009, the LIS Center became an official center within the Graduate Center. The LIS Center has been a venue for administrative, outreach, and fundraising work in support of LIS; from there, we have also organized an array of courses, public programs, and research projects.

Earlier this year, we decided that, when LIS’ leadership reorganization was implemented – today – we would simultaneously change the name of the LIS Center, at CUNY, to the Center on Socio-Economic Inequality/ Home to the US Office of LIS. (The US Office of LIS will be a component of the Center.) The purpose of the name change is to make the content of our work more evident to a broad audience.

We were nearing completion of that transition, including creating a new website, when we received some extraordinary and welcome news. Three weeks ago, a pair of Boston-based philanthropists – Jim and Cathy Stone – gave the Graduate Center US$2,500,000 to support our new Center. Following tradition, our new Center will be named after the Stones; it will be called, in short, the “Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality”. Please visit our new website for a fuller introduction to our renamed and expanded Center. (Note that one official step lies ahead. At CUNY, namings associated with physical space are subject to approval of the CUNY Board of Trustees; that step is scheduled to take place this autumn.)

We are thrilled and delighted by this gift. It puts the US Office of LIS on solid ground. That, in turn, will enable Caroline and me to concentrate our efforts on support for the Luxembourg Office of LIS.


So, today, I hand “the baton” to Daniele – a different baton than the one that I was handed ten years ago, but one that, for him, is new nonetheless. I wish Daniele the best in his work at LIS, and I look forward to collaborating with him in the coming years.


September 1, 2016 | News

LIS Scholars Talking about Global Inequality

On 11 May 2016, LIS Center Scholars Branko Milanovic and Paul Krugman, and LIS Director Janet Gornick, discussed Branko’s new book, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization (Harvard University Press, 2016).

The event took place at the CUNY Graduate Center. The video is online here.

Enjoy it!

May 25, 2016 | News

Lee Rainwater Memorial Lecture Series Launched

We are pleased to announce the founding of the Lee Rainwater Memorial Lecture Series.

We are launching this lecture series in honor of Lee Rainwater – our colleague, coauthor, mentor, and friend. The series will recognize Lee’s brilliant and creative academic career as well as his role as founding Research Director of the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS).


Lee Rainwater, January 7, 1928 – July 4, 2015

The series – which will begin in spring 2017 – will feature an annual lecture, with the speakers to be chosen by a committee comprised of the series’ donors. The location of the lectures will alternate between Harvard University (where Lee spent much of his career) and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (which houses the US Office of LIS).

The series will be designed to highlight new research within the many substantive areas where Lee made profound intellectual contributions, including poverty, inequality, urban culture, and social policy, and it will span both American and cross-national studies. To honor Lee’s remarkable career trajectory, the series will include scholars using an array and mix of methods – theoretical, qualitative/ethnographic, and quantitative – and from multiple disciplines, including sociology, economics, political science, and policy studies. In short, we intend to include scholars whose work will capture “all of Lee”, from Behind Ghetto Walls and What Money Buys to, thirty years later, Poor Kids in a Rich Country and Wealth and Welfare States – and countless contributions in between. Invited lecturers will be chosen to reflect a diversity of backgrounds.

Please stay tuned for news about the first lecture.

The series will be administered by Janet Gornick and Tim Smeeding.

Here we recognize the founding donors, who have provided support for the first eight lectures.

* The Rainwater Family
* Tim Smeeding and Marcy Carlson
* Janet Gornick
* Irv Garfinkel and Sara McLanahan
* Christopher Jencks
* Herbert J. Gans
* Gerald and Ruth Handel
* Tony and Judith Atkinson
* Markus Jäntti
* Koen Vleminckx and Ann Verboven
* Andrea Brandolini and Luisa Minghetti
* LIS: Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg
* The Harvard Sociology Department (donation of space)

Further contributions will always be welcomed.
Please contact Janet Gornick or Tim Smeeding.

May 24, 2016 | News

NYT Database Updated, Complementary Database Added

We have updated the LIS / New York Times Income Distribution Database that we added to the LIS website in April 2014. This database, which contains detailed information on the distribution and growth of household income across countries, has been updated to include later microdata and to change from 2005 to 2011 PPPs.

We have also added a related database: the Incomes across the Distribution Database (2016), assembled by Stefan Thewissen, Brian Nolan and Max Roser (Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford). This database also includes detailed information on income distributions. It contains information on total household income, both disposable and market income, and for entire populations as well as working-age populations.

We encourage you to explore both databases. See “Resources”, then “Other Databases”.

May 24, 2016 | Highlight

New Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS) Database is launched

Today, LIS is taking an exciting step forward by introducing an expanded and updated version of the Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS) Database.

Launched in 2007 as a pilot project, the LWS Database has provided opportunities for research on wealth and debt. In the intervening nine years, LIS has contributed to, and gained from, networks of wealth researchers and experts at the OECD and ECB. These ventures have led to improved international standards and better practices for collecting and analysing micro statistics on household wealth.

One outcome of these collaborations is a redesigned LWS Database. Our upgraded database embodies a cutting-edge conceptual framework and improved standards for the analysis of household wealth. The new LWS Database ensures high quality and comparability across countries.

Today, we are releasing 12 newly harmonised datasets, from seven countries: Australia, Canada, Finland, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The reference years range from 2005 to 2013. The number of LWS datasets will continue to increase; more extensive data holdings will enable new lines of research on wealth and debt across countries and, to some extent, over time.

The LWS Database includes harmonized microdata on various aspects of household balance sheets, as well as related economic, demographic, and behavioral variables. The data enable distributional analyses on household assets and liabilities, which are particularly important for gaining a comprehensive understanding of households’ financial stability.

We anticipate that the common variables in the LWS and LIS Databases, specifically income, expenditures, and a range of demographic and economic characteristics, will facilitate the use of the new LWS datasets by our large community of LIS Database users. With these new LWS datasets, our data users will be able to jointly assess multiple dimensions of household economic well-being, namely wealth, income and (in some datasets) consumption.

Last, but not least, we will continue to make available the pilot version of the LWS Database and, over time, we will harmonize some of these earlier datasets into the new LWS Database.

May 2, 2016 | Highlight

Tim Smeeding named “Lee Rainwater Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics”

Tim Smeeding, former LIS Director, has received a prestigious award from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The award granted Tim a named professorship, and invited him to select the name. Tim chose the title: Lee Rainwater Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics. For over two decades, Lee was LIS’ Research Director; he was a cherished colleague to all of us at LIS.

The University of Wisconsin announcement noted: “Lee was a gifted scholar whose classic works on ghetto life and the culture of poverty, human capital and social policy forged new pathways for many younger scholars who were in his debt” Smeeding said about his mentor, friend and co-author who died in 2015.

The LIS directors and staff congratulate Tim, and we celebrate his decision to honor Lee in this way.

March 22, 2016 | News

The Guardian launched a two-week series based on LIS data

Today, the Guardian launched a two-week series, on the worrisome economic status of “Generation Y” (those born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) in eight affluent countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and US.

The main data source was our Luxembourg Income Study Database. We look forward to future collaborations with the Guardian – whose team described LIS as Luxembourg’s best kept secret”!

March 7, 2016 | Highlight

Professor Daniele Checchi to assume Directorship of Luxembourg LIS Office

Dear LIS Community,

As 2016 starts, I not only wish you a very happy New Year but also bring news of new developments in the organization of LIS.

The LIS Executive Committee and Board have, at Janet’s instigation, been looking to the future in terms both of structure and personnel, and are very pleased that we have been able to set in place the arrangements that are described in the following note from Janet.

I will not re-iterate the information given in her note, but simply would like to welcome most warmly Daniele Checchi to the LIS management team. Together with its wonderful staff, in Luxembourg and New York, LIS has I believe a mix of “continuity and change” that equips it well for future challenges.

With best wishes,

Tony Atkinson
LIS President

Message from LIS Director Janet Gornick

I am pleased to announce that an expansion of our senior leadership is now underway.

On 1 September 2006, I became Director of LIS, taking responsibility for all LIS operations, which have been based in Luxembourg since 1983. In 2009, LIS opened a satellite office in the US, located at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and known as the “LIS Center” or the “US LIS Office”. In the last five years, both offices have grown dramatically and I concluded, with the support of our international governing body, that we needed to expand our senior team.

After an international search that took place early in 2015, Professor Daniele Checchi, an economist currently on sabbatical from the University of Milan, agreed to join our team. As of 1 September 2016, Daniele will become “Director of the Luxembourg LIS Office”. I will continue to serve as “Director of the US LIS Office”. Daniele and I will work in close cooperation, leading LIS jointly in the coming years.

Daniele’s extensive background in research, teaching, and academic administration – and his decades of experience with the LIS data and related datasets – make him a perfect fit for this new position. He will work with us, informally from 1 January to 31 August, 2016 – and then, on 1 September, he will join us formally.

All of us at LIS – staff, directors, and board – are eager to welcome him to the LIS team. We will stay in touch as our re-organization continues to take shape.

Best wishes,

Janet Gornick
LIS Director

January 11, 2016 | News