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Income Mobility, Inequality and Social Welfare

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  • Creedy, John
  • Wilhelm, Mark

Abstract

It is often argued that an observation of rising annual income inequality need not have negative normative implications. The argument is that if there has been a sufficiently large simultaneous increase in mobility, the inequality of income measured over a longer time period can be lower despite the rise in annual inequality. In this paper, it is shown by example that if normative implications are drawn from a standard social welfare function, the set of circumstances put forward in the above argument are not sufficient to guarantee that social welfare will improve. The reason is that even though rising mobility does reduce longer term inequality, it also increases the variability of income profiles over time and the latter has a detrimental social welfare effect. Hence, there are two types of mobility: one which reduces inequality (regression to the mean), but another that increases inequality (relative movements uncorrelated with incomes). Further, if individuals' aversion to income variability is sufficiently larger than the social welfare judge's aversion to inequality, then an increase in mobility, no matter how large, cannot offset the negative normative effect of rising annual inequality. Copyright 2002 by Blackwell Publishers Ltd/University of Adelaide and Flinders University of South Australia

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  • Creedy, John & Wilhelm, Mark, 2002. "Income Mobility, Inequality and Social Welfare," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 140-150, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ausecp:v:41:y:2002:i:2:p:140-50
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    Cited by:

    1. Amiel, Yoram & Cowell, Frank, 1997. "Inequality, welfare and monotonicity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2222, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Denisa Maria Sologon & O'Donoghue, Cathal, 2011. "Shaping earnings instability: labour market policy and institutional factors," MERIT Working Papers 077, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    3. Seidl, Christian & Camacho Cuena, Eva & Morone, Andrea, 2003. "Income Distributions versus Lotteries Happiness, Response-Mode Effects, and Preference," Economics Working Papers 2003-01, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
    4. Florent Bresson & Jean-Yves Duclos & Flaviana Palmisano, 2015. "Intertemporal pro-poorness," SERIES 03-2015, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza - Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro", revised Jul 2015.
    5. John Creedy & Elin Halvorsen & Thor O. Thoresen, 2013. "Inequality Comparisons In A Multi-Period Framework: The Role Of Alternative Welfare Metrics," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 59(2), pages 235-249, June.
    6. Sami Bibi & Jean-Yves Duclos & Abdelkrim Araar, 2014. "Mobility, taxation and welfare," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 42(3), pages 503-527, March.
    7. Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2005. "Are People Inequality-Averse, or Just Risk-Averse?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 375-396, August.
    8. Antonio Abatemarco, 2016. "Evaluating economic mobility under opportunity egalitarianism," Working Papers 396, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    9. Denisa Maria Sologon & Cathal O'Donoghue, 2009. "Increased Opportunity to Move up the Economic Ladder?: Earnings Mobility in EU: 1994-2001," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 221, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    10. Boris Cournède & Paula Garda & Volker Ziemann, 2015. "Effects of Economic Policies on Microeconomic Stability," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1201, OECD Publishing.

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