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World welfare is rising: estimation using nonparametric bounds on welfare measures

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  • Pinkovskiy, Maxim L.

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    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

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    Abstract

    I take a new approach to measuring world inequality and welfare over time by constructing robust bounds for these series instead of imposing parametric assumptions to compute point estimates. I derive sharp bounds on the Atkinson inequality index that are valid for any underlying distribution of income conditional on given fractile shares and the Gini coefficient. While the bounds are too wide to reject the hypothesis that world inequality may have risen, I show that world welfare rose unambiguously between 1970 and 2006. This conclusion is valid for alternative methods of dealing with countries and years with missing surveys, alternative survey harmonization procedures, and alternative GDP series, or if the inequality surveys used systematically underreport the income of the very rich or suffer from nonresponse bias.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 662.

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    Length: 62 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Dec 2014
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:662

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    Keywords: world income distribution; inequality and welfare measures; nonparametric bounds;

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    1. Murray, David, 1978. "Extreme values for Gini coefficients calculated from grouped data," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 389-393.
    2. François Bourguignon & Christian Morrisson, 2002. "Inequality Among World Citizens: 1820-1992," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 727-744, September.
    3. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    4. McDonald, James B. & Xu, Yexiao J., 1995. "A generalization of the beta distribution with applications," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 427-428, October.
    5. Gastwirth, Joseph L, 1972. "The Estimation of the Lorenz Curve and Gini Index," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 54(3), pages 306-16, August.
    6. Shaohua Chen & Martin Ravallion, 2010. "The Developing World Is Poorer Than We Thought, but No Less Successful in the Fight Against Poverty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1577-1625, November.
    7. Chotikapanich, Duangkamon & Griffiths, William E. & Rao, D. S. Prasada, 2007. "Estimating and Combining National Income Distributions Using Limited Data," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 97-109, January.
    8. Schultz, T.P., 1998. "Inequality in the Distribution of Personal Income in the World: How It Is Changing and Why," Papers 784, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    9. Banerjee, Abhijit & Piketty, Thomas, 2004. "Top Indian Incomes, 1922-2000," CEPR Discussion Papers 4632, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Salem, A B Z & Mount, T D, 1974. "A Convenient Descriptive Model of Income Distribution: The Gamma Density," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(6), pages 1115-27, November.
    11. Anton Korinek & Johan Mistiaen & Martin Ravallion, 2006. "Survey nonresponse and the distribution of income," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 33-55, April.
    12. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Price indexes, inequality, and the measurement of world poverty," Working Papers 1207, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    13. Singh, S K & Maddala, G S, 1976. "A Function for Size Distribution of Incomes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(5), pages 963-70, September.
    14. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2009. "Parametric Estimations of the World Distribution of Income," NBER Working Papers 15433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Chen, Shaohua & Ravallion, Martin, 2001. "How Did the World's Poorest Fare in the 1990s?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 47(3), pages 283-300, September.
    16. Sanjay G. Reddy & Camelia Minoiu, 2007. "Has World Poverty Really Fallen?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 53(3), pages 484-502, 09.
    17. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
    18. Cowell, Frank A., 1991. "Grouping bounds for inequality measures under alternative informational assumptions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1-2), pages 1-14.
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