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Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, With Evidence from Rural China


  • Jonathan Morduch

    (New York University)

  • Terry Sicular

    (University of Western Ontario)


We examine inequality decompositions by income source and describe a general, regression-based approach for decomposing inequality. The approach provides an efficient and flexible way to quantify the roles of variables like education and age in a multivariate context. We illustrate the method using survey data from China. The empirical results demonstrate how sharply different conclusions can emerge for different decomposition rules. We explain how these differences reflect the treatment of equally-distributed sources of income, and we discuss implications for how results from inequality decomposition are interpreted. Copyright Royal Economic Society 2002

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Morduch & Terry Sicular, 2002. "Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, With Evidence from Rural China," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 93-106, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:112:y:2002:i:476:p:93-106

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Morduch, Jonathan & Sicular, Terry, 2000. "Politics, growth, and inequality in rural China: does it pay to join the Party?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 331-356, September.
    2. Benjamin, Dwayne & Brandt, Loren, 1997. "Land, Factor Markets, and Inequality in Rural China: Historical Evidence," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 460-494, October.
    3. Jonathan Morduch & Terry Sicular, 2002. "Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, With Evidence from Rural China," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 93-106, January.
    4. James E. Foster & Efe A. Ok, 1999. "Lorenz Dominance and the Variance of Logarithms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 901-908, July.
    5. Sheldon Danziger, 1980. "Do Working Wives Increase Family Income Inequality?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(3), pages 444-451.
    6. John Knight & Li Shi, 1997. "Cumulative causation and inequality among villages in China," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(2), pages 149-172.
    7. Shorrocks, A F, 1982. "Inequality Decomposition by Factor Components," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 193-211, January.
    8. Anthony F. Shorrocks, 1983. "The Impact of Income Components on the Distribution of Family Incomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(2), pages 311-326.
    9. John C. H. Fei & Gustav Ranis & Shirley W. Y. Kuo, 1978. "Growth and the Family Distribution of Income by Factor Components," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(1), pages 17-53.
    10. Jyotsna Jalan & Martin Ravallion, 1998. "Geographic Poverty Traps?," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 86, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
    11. Lerman, Robert I & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1985. "Income Inequality Effects by Income," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 151-156, February.
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