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Divergent Inequalities: Theory And Empirical Results


  • Michael C. Wolfson


Widely used summary measures of inequality or the idea of the “disappearing middle class” are potentially misleading. Divergences between evidence cited and conclusions drawn include failing to distinguish between the concepts of inequality and polarization, and using scalar “inequality” measures which are not consistent with rankings based on Lorenz curves. In addition, inappropriate claims about trends in inequality can arise from focusing on only a sub‐population such as full‐time male workers, and failing to account for sampling variability. These divergences are illustrated using Canadian data on labour incomes over the 1967 to 1994 period.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael C. Wolfson, 1997. "Divergent Inequalities: Theory And Empirical Results," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 43(4), pages 401-421, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:43:y:1997:i:4:p:401-421
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4991.1997.tb00233.x

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Gornig & Jan Goebel, 2014. "Deindustrialization and Tertiarization and the Polarization of Household Incomes: The Example of German Agglomerations," ERSA conference papers ersa14p1172, European Regional Science Association.
    2. Walter Bossert & William Schworm, 2008. "A Class of Two‐Group Polarization Measures," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 10(6), pages 1169-1187, December.
    3. Gornig, Martin & Goebel, Jan, 2018. "Deindustrialisation and the polarisation of household incomes: The example of urban agglomerations in Germany," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 790-806.
    4. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2011. "Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1345-1374, June.
    5. Heisz, Andrew, 2007. "Income Inequality and Redistribution in Canada: 1976 to 2004," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2007298e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    6. Schettino, Francesco & Khan, Haider A., 2020. "Income polarization in the USA: What happened to the middle class in the last few decades?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 149-161.
    7. Tomasz Panek & Jan Zwierzchowski, 2020. "Median Relative Partial Income Polarization Indices: Investigating Economic Polarization in Poland During the Years 2005–2015," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 149(3), pages 1025-1044, June.
    8. Huesca, Luis, 2004. "¿Desaparece la clase media en México?: Una aplicación de la polarización por subgrupos entre 1984 y 2000 [Is the middle class vanishing in Mexico?: An application of polarization by subgroups betwe," MPRA Paper 14390, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Merz, Joachim & Peters, Normen, 2019. "Parental Child Care Time, Income and Subjective Well-Being: A Multidimensional Polarization Approach for Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 12145, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Joachim Merz & Normen Peters, 2019. "Parental Child Care Time, Income and Subjective Well-Being: A Multidimensional Polarization Approach for Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1021, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    11. Clementi,F. & Fabiani,M. & Molini,V., 2018. "The devil is in the details : growth, polarization, and poverty reduction in Africa in the past two decades," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8494, The World Bank.
    12. Heisz, Andrew, 2007. "Inegalite et redistribution du revenu au Canada : 1976 a 2004," Direction des études analytiques : documents de recherche 2007298f, Statistics Canada, Direction des études analytiques.
    13. Hyeok Yong Kwon & Hang Keun Ryu & Daniel J. Slottje, 2018. "A New Perspective On The Diffusion Of Global Democracy," Advances in Decision Sciences, Asia University, Taiwan, vol. 22(1), pages 115-136, December .
    14. Carlos Gradín & Máximo Rossi, 2006. "Income distribution and income sources in Uruguay," Journal of Applied Economics, Universidad del CEMA, vol. 9, pages 49-69, May.
    15. Joep Burger & Jacqueline Beuningen, 2020. "Measuring well-being dispersion on discrete rating scales," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 149(3), pages 749-773, June.
    16. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Christoph Gorgas, 2014. "Wie entwickelt sich die Schweizer Mittelschicht?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2014-11, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).

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