Reports 2012/35

Evidence from a new register-based data source

Wealth distribution in Norway

It is widely recognised that in order to have a fuller picture of the economic wellbeing of households, one needs to take into account the wealth of households as well as income and consumption (e.g. OECD 2008, Stiglitz et al. 2009, Atkinson et al. 2010). Robust data on wealth are, however, difficult to collect due to nonresponse and sampling errors in household surveys. Statistics Norway’s strategy has been to make extensive use of administrative data in the collection of income and wealth data. A milestone was passed in 2004 when the official data source for household income statistics shifted from a sample survey to a totally register-based data source covering all households in the country. A new milestone was passed in 2010 when new estimations on market values on own dwellings were introduced in household wealth statistics.

The aim of the report is to give a description of the build-up of a new registerbased wealth statistics. Norway is one of the few countries that still collect wealth tax. All information on financial wealth is collected from tax registers, while data on non-financial wealth (private dwellings) are estimated on the basis of a model where information on characteristics of the dwelling is used to calculate the market value. Furthermore, we follow the Canberra-recommendations of confronting micro and macro data. Thus, estimates from the new micro data source on household wealth will be compared with National Accounts.

The results show that there is a substantial increase in the household’s net wealth when the market value of the dwelling is included in the wealth concept. The average net wealth per household was NOK 1.6 million in 2009. The single most important asset is the value of own dwelling. This item constitutes 65 per cent of total wealth. Financial assets like bank deposits, shares etc. make up 28 per cent of total wealth, while total debt amount to 37 per cent of total assets.

The distribution of net wealth is highly skewed in Norway. While average net wealth for households is NOK 1.6 million, the median net wealth is NOK 900 000. Households in the highest 10 percent for net wealth own roughly 53 per cent of total net wealth, the richest 1 per cent control 21 per cent, while the top 0.1 per cent own 10 per cent of total net wealth.

There is sharp rise in net wealth by age. While households headed by someone younger than 30 years of age had a median net wealth close to zero, median net wealth for households where the main income earner is in the late 60s was NOK 1.9 million. Even the oldest households have a substantial net wealth.

When considering the joint distribution of income and wealth it turns out that many household with low income have a substantial net wealth. It is mainly older households that belong to this category. On the other hand, there are also many households that are at the top of the income distribution and at the bottom of the wealth distribution. These are typically younger, working-age couples without children. When both income and wealth is taken into consideration, this has a substantial impact on the proportion of poor households. In particular, there is a substantial reduction in the number of poor elderly people when traditional lowincome measures are supported with data on wealth.

About the publication


Wealth distribution in Norway. Evidence from a new register-based data source


Jon Epland, Mads Ivar Kirkeberg

Series and number

Reports 2012/35


Statistisk sentralbyrå


Income and wealth, Methods and documentation

ISBN (online)


ISBN (printed)




Number of pages




About Reports

Analyses and annotated statistical results from various surveys are published in the series Reports. Surveys include sample surveys, censuses and register-based surveys.