Income distribution trends in Brazil and China: Evaluating absolute and relative economic growth
Over the past two decades real per capita income has increased significantly in Brazil and spectacularly in China. Relative inequality in the distribution of income, however, has remained high in Brazil and has worsened in China. This paper uses a "stochastic dominance" approach to evaluate the welfare effects of a combination of rising mean per capita income in the context of worsening relative inequality. It concludes that by this criterion economic welfare in Brazil increased slightly in the 1981-2002 period. In China, the rapid increase in mean per capita was more than sufficient to overcome significantly increased relative inequality. Between 1985 and 2001 economic welfare thus increased substantially. The overall increase in welfare in both countries, however, is more complex when analyzed by consideration of specific time periods or by rural-urban decomposition.
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