IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Inequality Of Opportunities Vs. Inequality Of Outcomes: Are Western Societies All Alike?

  • Arnaud Lefranc
  • Nicolas Pistolesi
  • Alain Trannoy

This paper analyzes the relationship between income inequality and inequality of opportunities for income acquisition in nine developed countries during the 1990s. Equality of opportunity is defined as the situation where income distributions conditional on social origin cannot be ranked according to stochastic dominance criteria. We measure social origin by parental education and occupation and use the database built by Roemer et al. (2003 ). Stochastic dominance is assessed using nonparametric statistical tests. Our results indicate strong disparities in the degree of equality of opportunity across countries and a strong correlation between inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunity. The U.S. and Italy show up as the most unequal countries in terms of both outcome and opportunity. At the opposite extreme, income distributions conditional on social origin are almost the same in Scandinavian countries even before any redistributive policy. We complement the ordinal comparison by resorting to an original scalar "Gini" index of opportunities, which can be decomposed into a risk and a return component. In our sample, inequality of opportunity is mostly driven by differences in mean income conditional on social origin, and differences in risk compensate the return element in most countries. Copyright 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation 2008 International Association for Research in Income and Wealth Published by Blackwell Publishing.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: link to full text
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by International Association for Research in Income and Wealth in its journal Review of Income and Wealth.

Volume (Year): 54 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 513-546

in new window

Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:54:y:2008:i:4:p:513-546
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. John E. Roemer, . "To What Extent Do Fiscal Regimes Equalize Opportunities For Income Acquisition Among Citizens," Department of Economics 00-03, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  2. Wolak, Frank A., 1989. "Testing inequality constraints in linear econometric models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 205-235, June.
  3. Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," CEMA Working Papers 512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  4. Anthony B. Atkinson & Andrea Brandolini, 2000. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of 'Secondary' Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 379, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  5. Kodde, David A & Palm, Franz C, 1986. "Wald Criteria for Jointly Testing Equality and Inequality Restriction s," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(5), pages 1243-48, September.
  6. Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999. "A Data Set on Income Distribution," CEMA Working Papers 575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  7. Sahn, David E & Younger, Stephen D & Simler, Kenneth R, 2000. "Dominance Testing of Transfers in Romania," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(3), pages 309-27, September.
  8. repec:oup:qjecon:v:90:y:1976:i:4:p:630-49 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  10. Cowell, F.A., 2000. "Measurement of inequality," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 87-166 Elsevier.
  11. Arnaud Lefranc & Nicolas Pistolesi & Alain Trannoy & Louis-André Vallet, 2004. "Le revenu selon l'origine sociale ; suivi d'un commentaire de Louis-André Vallet," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 371(1), pages 49-88.
  12. James K. Galbraith & Hyunsub Kum, 2005. "Estimating The Inequality Of Household Incomes: A Statistical Approach To The Creation Of A Dense And Consistent Global Data Set," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(1), pages 115-143, 03.
  13. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975, July.
  14. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  15. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  16. Peragine, Vitorocco, 1999. " The Distribution and Redistribution of Opportunity," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(1), pages 37-69, February.
  17. repec:oup:qjecon:v:93:y:1979:i:2:p:321-24 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. repec:oup:restud:v:50:y:1983:i:4:p:723-35 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Giuseppe Bertola & Tito Boeri & Giuseppe Nicoletti (ed.), 2001. "Welfare and Employment in a United Europe: A Study for the Fondazione Rdolofo Debenedetti," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262024837, June.
  20. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1983. "Ranking Income Distributions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 3-17, February.
  21. Davidson, Russell & Duclos, Jean-Yves, 1998. "Statistical Inference for Stochastic Dominance and for the Measurement of Poverty and Inequality," Cahiers de recherche 9805, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  22. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:54:y:2008:i:4:p:513-546. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.