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Decomposing World Income Distribution: Does the World Have a Middle Class?

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  • Milanovic, Branko
  • Yitzhaki, Shlomo

Abstract

Using the national income/expenditure distribution data from 111 countries, we decompose total inequality between the individuals in the world, by continents and regions. We use Yitzhaki's Gini decomposition which allows for an exact breakdown of the Gini. We find that Asia is the most heterogeneous continent; between-country inequality is much more important than inequality in incomes within countries. At the other extreme is Latin America where differences between the countries are small, but inequalities within the countries are large. Western Europe/North America is fairly homogeneous both in terms of countries' mean incomes and income differences between individuals. If we divide the world population into three groups: the rich (those with incomes greater than Italy's mean income), the poor (those with incomes less than Western countries' poverty line), and the middle class, we find that there are only 11 percent of people who are "world middle class"; 78 percent are poor, and 11 percent are rich. Copyright 2002 by The International Association for Research in Income and Wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Milanovic, Branko & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2002. "Decomposing World Income Distribution: Does the World Have a Middle Class?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(2), pages 155-178, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:48:y:2002:i:2:p:155-78
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. T. Paul Schultz, 1998. "Inequality in the distribution of personal income in the world: How it is changing and why," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 11(3), pages 307-344.
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    7. Lerman, Robert I. & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1984. "A note on the calculation and interpretation of the Gini index," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 15(3-4), pages 363-368.
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    9. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1994. "Economic distance and overlapping of distributions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 147-159, March.
    10. Dagum, Camilo, 1980. "Inequality Measures between Income Distributions with Applications," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(7), pages 1791-1803, November.
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