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Permanent Income Inequality: Australia, Britain, Germany, and the United States Compared

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  • Andrew Leigh

Abstract

A common critique of most measures of income inequality, which are based on a single year's income, is that they fail to take account of income mobility. If income fluctuations are large, and individuals can smooth consumption, then high inequality and high mobility may be no worse than low inequality and low mobility. To test this, I use panel data from four countries – Australia, Britain, Germany and the United States – and estimate measures of permanent income inequality that are based on income averaged over multiple years. I find that: (1) using pre-government income, annual inequality and permanent inequality have grown in Germany and the US, while post-government income inequality has grown in the US; (2) comparing levels of annual post-government income inequality across countries, the ranking was the US, Australia, Britain, Germany; (3) comparing levels of permanent income inequality across countries, the ranking of triennial post-government inequality in the most recent year was the US, Australia, Germany, Britain; (4) in the most recent year, the most mobile country was Australia, while the least mobile was Germany. However, as a comparison of points (2) and (3) demonstrates, mobility had little effect on the overall rankings.

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File URL: http://cbe.anu.edu.au/research/papers/ceprdpapers/DP628.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 628.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:628

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Related research

Keywords: permanent income; income distribution; Australia; Britain; Germany; United States;

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Cited by:
  1. Nicholas Rohde & Kam Ki Tang & Prasada Rao, 2011. "Income volatility and insecurity in the U.S., Germany and Britain," Discussion Papers Series 434, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  2. Paul Gregg & Rosanna Scutella & Claudia Vittori, 2012. "Earnings Mobility and Inequality: An Integrated Framework," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 12/295, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  3. Markus Jäntti & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2013. "Income Mobility," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 607, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

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