June 5, 2024
Written by WID.world

Monopoly power drives wealth inequality in Australia

Recent decades have seen an increase in top wealth shares and an increase in market concentration in Australia. Are excessively concentrated markets inequitable as well as inefficient?

Using rich lists’ information and market concentration data, Lachlan Hotchin and Andrew Leigh analyze the degree of market concentration in the industries where Australia’s wealthiest made their fortunes.

Key findings

  • In 1990, the largest source of top wealth was ‘Commercial and industrial building construction’, followed by ‘Retail property operators’. In 2020, the most significant source of wealth was ‘Iron ore mining’, followed by ‘Computer system design services’.
  • Compared with the economy at large, top wealth holders have tended to make their fortunes in industries with a higher-than-average degree of market concentration. This effect is largely driven by the upper-middle part of the concentration distribution. In 2020, in the industries where top wealth holders make their money, the top four firms controlled 43% of the market – a substantially higher share than in the economy as a whole (36%).
  • Top wealth shares have grown substantially, and from 1990 to 2020, there appears to have been an increase in the propensity of top wealth holders to make their fortunes in highly concentrated industries.


  • Lachlan Hotchin, Monash University
  • Andrew Leigh, Parliament of Australia, WID Fellow



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