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Inequality in Indonesia: What can we learn from top incomes?


  • Leigh, Andrew
  • van der Eng, Pierre


Abstract Using taxation and household survey data, this paper estimates top income shares for Indonesia during 1920-2004. Our results suggest that top income shares grew during the 1920s and 1930s, but fell in the post-war era. We observe a sharp rise in top income shares during the late-1990s, coinciding with the 1997-98 economic crisis. Where comparable data are available, top income shares in Indonesia are generally higher than in other countries, a finding that is at odds with the view that Indonesia is a relatively egalitarian society. This suggests that top income shares may provide a more complete picture of developing country inequality in comparative perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Leigh, Andrew & van der Eng, Pierre, 2009. "Inequality in Indonesia: What can we learn from top incomes?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 209-212, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:1-2:p:209-212

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. DAVIES, JAMES B & Shorrocks, Anthony & Sandstrom, Susanna & WOLFF, EDWARD N, 2007. "The World Distribution of Household Wealth," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt3jv048hx, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
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    Cited by:

    1. Perdamen Sagala & Takahiro Akita & Arief Yusuf, 2014. "Urbanization and expenditure inequality in Indonesia: testing the Kuznets hypothesis with provincial panel data," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 133-147, October.
    2. Andy Sumner & Peter Edward, 2013. "From Low Income, High Poverty to High-Income, No Poverty? An Optimistic View of the Long-Run Evolution of Poverty in Indonesia By International Poverty Lines, 1984–2030," Working Papers in Economics and Development Studies (WoPEDS) 201310, Department of Economics, Padjadjaran University, revised Jun 2013.
    3. Alvaredo, Facundo, 2009. "Top incomes and earnings in Portugal 1936-2005," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 404-417, October.
    4. Michal Brzezinski, 2011. "Variance Estimation for Richness Measures," LWS Working papers 11, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    5. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    6. Andy Sumner, 2013. "The Evolution Of Education And Health Poverty During Economic Development:The Case Of Indonesia, 1991–2007," Working Papers in Economics and Development Studies (WoPEDS) 201311, Department of Economics, Padjadjaran University, revised May 2013.
    7. Christoph Lakner & Branko Milanovic, 2016. "Global Income Distribution: From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 30(2), pages 203-232.
    8. Bhattacharyya, Sambit & Resosudarmo, Budy P., 2015. "Growth, Growth Accelerations, and the Poor: Lessons from Indonesia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 154-165.
    9. Cabral, René & García-Díaz, Rocío & Mollick, André Varella, 2016. "Does globalization affect top income inequality?," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 916-940.
    10. Kunta Nugraha & Phil Lewis, 2013. "Towards a better measure of income inequality in Indonesia," Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 103-112, April.
    11. Jörg Baten & Mojgan Stegl & Pierre Eng, 2013. "The biological standard of living and body height in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia, 1770–2000," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 103-122, July.
    12. Brzezinski, Michal, 2013. "Asymptotic and bootstrap inference for top income shares," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(1), pages 10-13.
    13. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Christoph Gorgas, 2011. "The Evolution of Top Incomes in Switzerland over the 20th Century," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 147(IV), pages 479-519, December.
    14. Andrew Leigh, 2007. "How Closely Do Top Income Shares Track Other Measures of Inequality?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(524), pages 619-633, November.
    15. Foldvari, Peter & van Leeuwen, Bas & Marks, Daan & Gall, Jozsef, 2013. "Indonesian regional welfare development, 1900–1990: New anthropometric evidence," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 78-89.
    16. Fiorio, Carlo V. & Saget, Catherine., 2010. "Reducing or aggravating inequality? : Preliminary findings from the 2008 financial crisis," ILO Working Papers 994564873402676, International Labour Organization.
    17. Christoph Gorgas & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2012. "The long run effect of taxes on the distribution of top income shares: an empirical investigation," CREMA Working Paper Series 2012-22, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    18. Foellmi, Reto & Oechslin, Manuel, 2012. "Globalization and Productivity in the Developing World," Economics Working Paper Series 1203, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    19. repec:ilo:ilowps:456487 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Salvatore Morelli & Timothy Smeeding & Jeffrey Thompson, 2014. "Post-1970 Trends in Within-Country Inequality and Poverty: Rich and Middle Income Countries," CSEF Working Papers 356, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    21. Christoph Lakner & Branko Milanovic, 2015. "La distribución global del ingreso. De la caída del muro de Berlín a la gran recesión," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 17(32), pages 71-128, January-J.
    22. Ivan Gonzalez & Budy P Resosudarmo, 2016. "A sectoral growth-income inequality nexus in Indonesia," Departmental Working Papers 2016-15, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Inequality Top incomes Personal income taxation Indonesia;

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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