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Inequality in the very long run: inferring inequality from data on social groups

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  • Jørgen Modalsli

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Abstract

This paper presents a new method for calculating Gini coefficients from tabulations of the mean income of social classes. Income distribution data from before the Industrial Revolution usually come in the form of such tabulations, called social tables. Inequality indices generated from social tables are frequently calculated without adjusting for within-group income dispersion, leading to a systematic downward bias in the reporting of pre-industrial inequality. The correction method presented in this paper is applied to an existing collection of twenty-five social tables, from Rome in AD 1 to India in 1947. The corrections, using a variety of assumptions on within-group dispersion, lead to substantial increases in the Gini coefficients. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Jørgen Modalsli, 2015. "Inequality in the very long run: inferring inequality from data on social groups," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(2), pages 225-247, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:13:y:2015:i:2:p:225-247
    DOI: 10.1007/s10888-014-9279-6
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10888-014-9279-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Milanovic, Branko & Lindert, Peter & Williamson, Jeffrey, 2007. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," MPRA Paper 5388, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Lambert, Peter J & Aronson, J Richard, 1993. "Inequality Decomposition Analysis and the Gini Coefficient Revisited," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1221-1227, September.
    3. Yitzhaki, Shlomo & Lerman, Robert I, 1991. "Income Stratification and Income Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(3), pages 313-329, September.
    4. Branko Milanovic, 2006. "An Estimate Of Average Income And Inequality In Byzantium Around Year 1000," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(3), pages 449-470, September.
    5. Young, Alwyn, 2011. "The Gini coefficient for a mixture of Ln-Normal populations," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 54246, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. François Bourguignon & Christian Morrisson, 2002. "Inequality Among World Citizens: 1820-1992," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 727-744, September.
    7. Ebert, Udo, 2010. "The decomposition of inequality reconsidered: Weakly decomposable measures," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 94-103, September.
    8. Gastwirth, Joseph L, 1972. "The Estimation of the Lorenz Curve and Gini Index," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 54(3), pages 306-316, August.
    9. repec:zbw:hohpro:325 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Hoffman, Philip T. & Jacks, David S. & Levin, Patricia A. & Lindert, Peter H., 2002. "Real Inequality In Europe Since 1500," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 322-355, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Esteban Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Comparing Income and Wealth Inequality in Pre-Industrial economies. Lessons from Spain in the 18th century," Working Papers 16.01, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
    2. repec:bla:revinw:v:63:y:2017:i:3:p:445-463 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Milanovic, Branko, 2016. "Towards an explanation of inequality in pre-modern societies:the role of colonies and high population density," MPRA Paper 74877, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Esteban A. Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Comparing Income and Wealth Inequality in Pre-Industrial Economies: Lessons from 18th-Century Spain," Working Papers 0095, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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