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Declining International Inequality and Economic Divergence: Reviewing the Evidence Through Different Lenses

Author

Listed:
  • Francois Bourguignon
  • Victoria Levin
  • David Rosenblatt

Abstract

In recent years, an ample literature has emerged on the evolution of global inequality during the last two decades. A few stylized facts emerge. If one weights countries by their population, then inequality across countries has declined. However, if one treats countries equally – as in the macroeconomic convergence (divergence) literature—then there has been increasing inequality. Which view is the correct one? In this paper, we use the 2004 version of the World Bank’s World Development Indicators to re-examine the evidence over the 1980-2002 period, and the data reaffirm the two trends described above. Even if inequality declined by most common aggregate inequality indices, there is neither full Lorenz dominance of 2002 over 1980 in population-weighted terms, nor first-order dominance. The aggregate inequality indices also mask the tremendous mobility of countries, and in particular, the impoverishment of about two dozen countries at the bottom of the distribution over the period in question. Tracking mobility is a less “anonymous” approach to the analysis, and it also can explain divergent views on increasing or decreasing international inequality. If one cares only about final outcomes and not initial starting positions, then inequality decreased by most criteria. However, if mobility itself is part of the welfare criteria, and if one is willing to put more weight on those countries that have lost, then the world distribution of income has worsened.

Suggested Citation

  • Francois Bourguignon & Victoria Levin & David Rosenblatt, 2004. "Declining International Inequality and Economic Divergence: Reviewing the Evidence Through Different Lenses," Economie Internationale, CEPII research center, issue 100, pages 13-26.
  • Handle: RePEc:cii:cepiei:2004-4qa
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    File URL: http://www.cepii.fr/IE/rev100/rev100a.htm
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    Cited by:

    1. Bouët, Antoine, 2006. "What can the poor expect from trade liberalization?: opening the "black box" of trade modeling," MTID discussion papers 93, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Sudhir Anand & Paul Segal, 2014. "The Global Distribution of Income," Economics Series Working Papers 714, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Bussolo, Maurizio & De Hoyos, Rafael E. & Medvedev, Denis, 2008. "Is the developing world catching up ? global convergence and national rising dispersion," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4733, The World Bank.
    4. Kym Anderson & John Cockburn & Will Martin, 2011. "Would Freeing Up World Trade Reduce Poverty and Inequality? The Vexed Role of Agricultural Distortions," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 487-515, April.
    5. Bourguignon, François & Levin, Victoria & Rosenblatt, David, 2009. "International Redistribution of Income," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 1-10, January.
    6. Bourguignon, Francois & Levin, Victoria & Rosenblatt, David, 2006. "Global redistribution of income," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3961, The World Bank.
    7. Sadegh Bakhtiari & Hossein Meisami, 2010. "An empirical investigation of the effects of health and education on income distribution and poverty in Islamic countries," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(4), pages 293-301, March.
    8. Patrick Carter & Jonathan R. W. Temple, 2017. "Virtuous Circles and the Case for Aid," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 65(2), pages 397-425, June.
    9. Carolina Castaldi & Giovanni Dosi, 2008. "Technical Change and Economic Growth: Some Lessons from Secular Patterns and Some Conjectures on the Current Impact of ICT Technology," LEM Papers Series 2008/01, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    10. Facundo Alvaredo & Leonardo Gasparini, 2013. "Recent Trends in Inequality and Poverty in Developing Countries," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0151, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    11. Rocchi, Benedetto & Romano, Donato & Hamza, Raid, 2013. "Agriculture reform and food crisis in Syria: Impacts on poverty and inequality," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 190-203.
    12. Carolina Castaldi & Giovanni Dosi, 2010. "Technical Change and Economic Growth: Some Lessons from Secular Patterns and Some Conjectures on the Current Impact of ICT," Chapters,in: Innovation and Economic Development, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Andrew J. Hussey & Michael Jetter & Dianne McWilliam, 2017. "Explaining Inequality Between Countries: The Declining Role of Political Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 6320, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income distribution; inequality; convergence; mobility; growth;

    JEL classification:

    • D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • F0 - International Economics - - General
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • O00 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - General - - - General

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