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Paperback | $16.00 Short | £11.95 | ISBN: 9780262513456 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 11 illus.| August 2009

Confronting Income Inequality in Japan

A Comparative Analysis of Causes, Consequences, and Reform


Contrary to general belief, and to Japan's own self-image, inequality of income and wealth distribution in Japan has grown in the past two decades. In this well-written and accessible book, Toshiaki Tachibanaki analyzes the movement toward more income inequality in Japan and offers policy recommendations to counter the trend. Tachibanaki, Japan's leading expert on income distribution, draws on new statistical data covering wealth, inheritance, farm and business holdings, salary, and other relevant factors, to demonstrate that Japan can no longer be thought of as a "90 percent middle-class society."

The book, updated and substantially expanded from Tachibanaki's 1998 Japanese bestseller, discusses the history and the causes of Japan's increasing income inequality and analyzes the effect on wealth distribution of intergenerational transfer. Employing cross-national comparisons to the United States and Europe throughout, Confronting Income Inequality in Japan examines the contrast between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome, evaluates equality of opportunity in terms of education and occupation, analyzes the relationship between income distribution and income growth, discusses the role of hierarchical positions in organizations, and considers the differences between welfare states and nonwelfare states. Concluding with policy recommendations, Tachibanaki argues against the belief of some economists that greater inequality is unavoidable if Japan is to achieve a strong economic recovery.

About the Author

Toshiaki Tachibanaki is Professor of Economics at Kyoto University and Director of the Millennium Project on Aging at the Economic Planning Agency in Japan.


"The book is a significant contribution to the literature on the Japanese economy. There is no other book-length, English-language treatment of inequality in Japan."
Dale W. Jorgenson, Samuel W. Morris University Professor, Harvard University

"With exceptional clarity, Tachibanaki sheds light on a fundamental transformation of contemporary Japanese society. Interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and international in its comparative inquiries, his pathbreaking study explodes the myth of Japan as an egalitarian society and analyzes its sober reality with exacting scrutiny. This book is a must for both serious scholars and students of Japan today."
Yoshio Sugimoto, School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Australia

"Tachibanaki's cogent and iconoclastic analysis of Japanese income inequality should be required reading for all serious students of the Japanese economy."
Douglas Ostrom, former senior economist, Japan Economic Institute