American Sociological Association Session Features Presentation About LIS

LIS Director Janet Gornick gave a presentation at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in August. Her presentation highlighted LIS’ harmonisation process, access to the LIS databases, and examples of research using LIS and LWS data. The session, organized by Patricia White of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), presented four prominent data sources that are funded by the NSF. Other presentations concerned IPUMS-International, the School Attendance Boundary Information System, and the General Social Survey.

Below are the slides from Janet Gornick’s presentation.

September 4, 2013 | News

Read Tony Atkinson’s Foreword to Our New Book

Sir Tony Atkinson, President of the LIS Board, is a professor of economics at Oxford University and one of the world’s leading scholars on economic inequality. We are delighted that he was able to contribute to our new book, “Income Inequality: Economic Disparities and the Middle Class in Affluent Countries.” In addition to contributing a chapter on the definitions of “middle class,” Professor Atkinson also penned the book’s foreword.

The foreword is reprinted with permission below.
To purchase the book online from Stanford University Press, click here.


Anthony B. Atkinson

I am delighted that one of my first tasks as president of LIS is to contribute the foreword to this book edited by Janet Gornick, director of LIS, and Markus Jäntti, research director. I have been associated with LIS since the early days of its 30-year history, and I have followed with great interest its development and expanding horizons. And, as a researcher, I have benefited much from using LIS data.

The history is important. It is thanks to the farsightedness of LIS’s founders, Gaston Schaber, Lee Rainwater (its first research director), and Tim Smeeding (its first director), that researchers today have access to the comparable cross-country data provided by LIS via its two databases—the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) and the Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS)—that have been employed to such advantage in this book. The assembly of microdatasets and, above all, the ex post harmonization of the data according to a common template involve a major investment of time. Such social science infrastructure cannot be created overnight.

We should therefore be looking ahead to future needs and be planning the infrastructural investments that we need to make today. Such planning is particularly important at the present time because of the major threat to one of LIS’s core ingredients: the household survey. Despite the advances in technology and methodology, household surveys are labor-intensive and expensive, and around the world national statistical offices are subject to budget cuts. The survey instrument itself faces its own problems in the form of declining response rates and inability to expand the range of questioning to meet the increased need for data linked across different domains. These concerns have led to increased interest in the use of administrative records and to the exploration of data linkage methods. However, it is important that such developments continue to provide individual researchers with the kind of access currently available via LIS.

LIS has been expanding its geographical coverage, and this is most welcome. Thus, while the chapters in this book largely concentrate on high-income countries, future LIS-based research will be able to encompass important middle-income countries. Each such development, however, leads one to ask for more. How else could the scope of LIS be widened? One priority immediately suggests itself. The economic crisis has highlighted the need for both up-to-date data and annual data. The events in which we are interested, such as the financial crisis that began in 2007, do not occur neatly vis-à-vis the intervals between waves of LIS data. Although LIS has shortened the interval from five to three years, more frequent data and more up-to-date data are needed, and this will require additional resources. Expansion means investment.

Substantively, the chapters in this book clearly demonstrate the importance of looking at the distribution as a whole. We cannot focus on just one part of the distribution in isolation. Some economists say that they are concerned about poverty but not about inequality. However, as Richard Tawney famously noted in 1913, “What thoughtful rich people call the problem of poverty, thoughtful poor people call with equal justice a problem of riches.” In between is situated the “middle class,” and this book reflects increased interest in distributional changes affecting those around the median. For those who see the growth of a middle class as a sign of development and as a guarantee of democracy, there are concerns about the possible “hollowing out of the middle” in high-income countries. It is perhaps reassuring to remind ourselves that such concerns are not new. In The Grasmere Journal, Dorothy Wordsworth in May 1800 records that a neighbor “talked much about the alteration of the times and observed that in a short time there would be only two ranks of people, the very rich and the very poor.” The difference today is that the observations that we make about “the alteration of the times”—like those in this book—can be more firmly based in empirical evidence.


Tawney, Richard. 1913. “Poverty as an Industrial Problem,” Inaugural Lecture, Memoranda on the Problems of Poverty. London: William Morris Press.

Wordsworth, Dorothy. 2002. The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals. Oxford: Oxford University Press

July 15, 2013 | News

2013 LIS Summer Workshop Completed

This past Saturday marked the end of the 2013 LIS Summer Workshop. The workshop, which has been held annually since 1988, features a mix of lectures and hands-on laboratory sessions. This year, lectures were given by LIS Director Janet Gornick, Research Director Markus Jäntti, and members of the LIS staff. The week-long workshop introduced attendees to diverse applications of the LIS and LWS Databases.

This year, the workshop hosted 28 attendees from several supranational organisations, data providers, and universities. This year’s class came from nearly 20 countries.

LIS staff members and workshop attendees celebrate the final night of the workshop at the Château Bourglinster.

July 9, 2013 | News

Publication of New LIS Book, Edited by Janet C. Gornick and Markus Jäntti

Income Inequality: Economic Disparities and the Middle Class in Affluent Countries
Edited by Janet C. Gornick and Markus Jäntti
Stanford University Press

This state-of-the-art volume presents comparative, empirical research on a topic that has long preoccupied scholars, politicians, and everyday citizens: economic inequality. While income and wealth inequality across all populations is the primary focus, the contributions to this book pay special attention to the middle class, a segment often not addressed in inequality literature. The research also casts important light on how economic inequality affects and is affected by gender disparities, labour markets, institutions, and politics.

Written by leading scholars in the field of economic inequality, all 17 chapters draw on microdata from the databases of LIS, an esteemed cross-national data center based in Luxembourg. Using LIS data to structure a comparative approach, the contributors paint a complex portrait of inequality across affluent countries at the beginning of the 21st century. The volume also trail-blazes new research into inequality in countries newly entering the LIS databases, including Japan, Iceland, India, and South Africa.

“This is one of the most important books on inequality published in the past decade. Focusing on what has happened to the middle class since the 1980s, during a period of substantial economic and political restructuring, this volume’s remarkable insights and influence will span disciplines.”

—Jason Beckfield, Harvard University

To purchase this book, click here.

June 21, 2013 | News

Announcing New Book and LIS Technical Paper

LIS is proud to announce a new book and an associated LIS Technical Paper.

First, we mark the publication of a new book, Understanding Research Infrastructures in the Social Sciences, produced by FORS, the Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences. The book features a collection of chapters that demonstrate how research infrastructures – including LIS – are leading to profound changes in the social sciences. In addition to the chapter on LIS, the book includes descriptions of the Cross-National Equivalent File (CNEF), the European Social Survey (ESS), the European Values Study (EVS), and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The book can be purchased online or by using this form.

Second, we are pleased to announce the release of LIS Technical Paper No. 5. This Technical Paper extends the FORS book chapter, primarily by including citations of LIS-based studies. Both the book chapter and the Technical Paper were co-authored by LIS Director Janet Gornick, along with Berglind Hólm Ragnarsdóttir and Sarah Kostecki. Both summarize LIS’ importance for comparative research, its structure and products, and its vision for the future.

June 19, 2013 | News

Holly Sutherland to give 2013 Summer Lecture: “Who Pays for Austerity?…”

Holly Sutherland, Research Professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, and Director of EUROMOD, will give the 2013 LIS Summer Lecture: “Who Pays for Austerity? The Design and Distributional Effects of Fiscal Consolidation in the European Union.” The public lecture will be on July 2, at the Neumünster Abbaye, in Luxembourg.

June 12, 2013 | News

Tony Atkinson in conversation with Paul Krugman, moderated by Chrystia Freeland

On May 20, 2013, LIS Board President Tony Atkinson and Paul Krugman engaged in a public conversation at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Professors Atkinson and Krugman – two of the world’s preeminent economists – discussed the complex links between inequality and economic growth, instability, and mobility.

The conversation was moderated by Chrystia Freeland, Managing Director and Editor, Consumer News at Thomson Reuters. The evening was introduced by Graduate Center President William Kelly, and LIS Director Janet Gornick.

The sold-out event attracted a live audience of several hundred and was also live-streamed. The U.S. office of LIS was delighted to co-sponsor this exciting event with the Graduate Center’s Advanced Research Collaborative.

May 20, 2013 | News

2013 LIS Introductory Summer Workshop

The next LIS Introductory Summer Workshop will be held 30 June – 7 July 2013, at the University of Luxembourg campus.

The winners of the 2013 Aldi Hagenaars Award and the winner of the 2013 World Bank/LIS Gender Research Award will be invited to present their papers.

Our annual Summer Lecture will also be taking place that week.

2013 Workshop Application – deadline is 15 March 2013

Participants are responsible for their own tuition and transportation to and from Luxembourg. The €1,400 tuition covers instructional materials, single-occupancy accommodations, and full board.

December 22, 2012 | News

NEW Self-Teaching Materials Now Available!

NEW self-teaching materials and sample files are now available. These resources – updated to correspond to the 2011 Template – will help new users to become acquainted with programming syntax for working with the LIS and LWS microdata provided through the LISSY system. They may also be helpful to experienced users.  Take a look!

August 3, 2012 | News

Five Countries Acquired for LIS Database: Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, Serbia, Egypt

LIS has acquired datasets from five new countries. Our acquisition of datasets from the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Paraguay will expand LIS’ collection of Latin American datasets to ten. We are also pleased to announce that we have acquired datasets from Serbia and Egypt.

These five datasets will be added to Wave VII of the LIS Database. They will be harmonized using the new data template.

January 6, 2012 | News