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Inequality and welfare evaluation of heterogeneous income distributions

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  • Anthony Shorrocks
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    Abstract

    This paper establishes the principles that should govern the welfare and inequality analysis of heterogeneous income distributions. Two basic criteria – the ‘equity preference’ condition and the ‘compensation principle’ – are shown to be fundamentally incompatible. The paper favours the latter, thereby vindicating the traditional method of dealing with heterogeneous samples. However, inequality and welfare comparisons will usually be well defined only if equivalent incomes are obtained using constant scale factors; and researchers will need to distinguish clearly between inequality of nominal incomes and inequality of living standards. Furthermore, household observations must always be weighted according to family size. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10888-004-3459-8
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal The Journal of Economic Inequality.

    Volume (Year): 2 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 3 (July)
    Pages: 193-218

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:2:y:2004:i:3:p:193-218

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    Web page: http://springerlink.metapress.com/link.asp?id=111137

    Related research

    Keywords: income distributions; inequality; living standards; needs;

    References

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    1. Roberts, Kevin W S, 1980. "Interpersonal Comparability and Social Choice Theory," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 421-39, January.
    2. Udo Ebert & Patrick Moyes, 2003. "Equivalence Scales Reconsidered," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 319-343, January.
    3. Fleurbaey, M. & Hagnere, C. & Trannoy, A., 1998. "Welfare Comparisons with Bounded Equivalence Scales," Papers 9823, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
    4. Nelson, Julie A, 1993. "Household Equivalence Scales: Theory versus Policy?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 471-93, July.
    5. Ebert, Udo, 1997. "Social Welfare When Needs Differ: An Axiomatic Approach," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(254), pages 233-44, May.
    6. Lewbel, Arthur, 1989. "Household equivalence scales and welfare comparisons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 377-391, August.
    7. Kolm, Serge-Christophe, 1977. "Multidimensional Egalitarianisms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-13, February.
    8. Trannoy, Alain, 2003. "About the right weights of the social welfare function when needs differ," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 383-387, December.
    9. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1983. "Ranking Income Distributions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 3-17, February.
    10. Pendakur, Krishna, 1998. "Semiparametric estimates and tests of base-independent equivalence scales," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 1-40, November.
    11. Jenkins, Stephen P & Lambert, Peter J, 1993. "Ranking Income Distributions When Needs Differ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(4), pages 337-56, December.
    12. Glewwe, Paul, 1991. "Household equivalence scales and the measurement of inequality : Transfers from the poor to the rich could decrease inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 211-216, March.
    13. Danziger, Sheldon & Taussig, Michael K, 1979. "The Income Unit and the Anatomy of Income Distribution," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 25(4), pages 365-75, December.
    14. Atkinson, Anthony B & Bourguignon, Francois, 1982. "The Comparison of Multi-Dimensioned Distributions of Economic Status," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(2), pages 183-201, April.
    15. Coulter, Fiona A E & Cowell, Frank A & Jenkins, Stephen P, 1992. "Differences in Needs and Assessment of Income Distributions," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(2), pages 77-124, April.
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