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The policy significance of inequality decompositions


  • Ravi Kanbur



Economists are now familiar with “between” and “within” group inequality decompositions, for race, gender, spatial units, etc. But what exactly is the normative significance of the empirical results produced by these decompositions? This paper raises some basic questions about policy interpretations of decompositions that are found in the literature.
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Suggested Citation

  • Ravi Kanbur, 2006. "The policy significance of inequality decompositions," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 4(3), pages 367-374, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:4:y:2006:i:3:p:367-374 DOI: 10.1007/s10888-005-9013-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael Sattinger (ed.), 2001. "Income Distribution," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 2018.
    2. Kanbur, Ravi, 2000. "Income distribution and development," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 13, pages 791-841 Elsevier.
    3. Au, Chun-Chung & Henderson, J. Vernon, 2006. "How migration restrictions limit agglomeration and productivity in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 350-388, August.
    4. Masahisa Fujita & Paul Krugman & Anthony J. Venables, 2001. "The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262561476, July.
    5. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    6. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975, June.
    7. Xiaobo Zhang & Kevin Honglin Zhang, 2002. "Regional Inequality," Chapters,in: The Globalization of the Chinese Economy, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kanbur, Ravi & Wagstaff, Adam, 2014. "How Useful Is Inequality Of Opportunity As A Policy Construct?," Working Papers 250005, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    2. Tomoki Fujii, 2013. "Geographic decomposition of inequality in health and wealth: evidence from Cambodia," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 11(3), pages 373-392, September.
    3. Lukas Schrott & Martin Gaechter & Engelbert Theurl, 2015. "Regional Development in Advanced Countries: A Within-country Application of the Human Development Index for Austria," DANUBE: Law and Economics Review, European Association Comenius - EACO, issue 1, pages 1-23, March.
    4. Marcos Robles & Viviane Azevedo, 2008. "Inequality and geographical targeting of social spending: The case of Ecuador," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 1630, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. Sami Bibi & AbdelRahmen El-Lahga, 2011. "A Unified Framework to Decomposing Inequality with Illustrations to Some Arab Countries," Working Papers 618, Economic Research Forum, revised 08 Jan 2011.
    6. Kanbur, Ravi, 2013. "Economic Inequality and Economic Development: Lessons and Implications of Global Experiences for the Arab World," Working Papers 180077, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    7. Suman Seth and Sabina Alkire, 2014. "Measuring and Decomposing Inequality among the Multidimensionally Poor Using Ordinal Data: A Counting Approach," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp068, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    8. Gerasimova, Irina, 2009. "Sources of Income as a Factor of Interregional Social Economic Differentiation of the Russia’s Population (1995-2007)," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 16(4), pages 60-84.
    9. Sergio Rey & Richard Smith, 2013. "A spatial decomposition of the Gini coefficient," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 55-70, July.
    10. Ogwang Tomson, 2014. "A Convenient Method of Decomposing the Gini Index by Population Subgroups," Journal of Official Statistics, De Gruyter Open, vol. 30(1), pages 91-105, March.
    11. Rohit Mutatkar, 2005. "Social group disparities and poverty in India," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2005-004, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.
    12. Sreenivasan Subramanian, 2011. "Inter-group Disparities in the Distributional Analysis of Human Development: Concepts, Measurement, and Illustrative Applications," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 27-52, March.
    13. Demombynes, Gabriel & Ozler, Berk, 2005. "Crime and local inequality in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 265-292, April.
    14. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-16-00757 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Julie A. Silva, 2013. "Rural Income Inequality in Mozambique: National Dynamics and Local Experiences?," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 43(1), pages 23-50, Summer.
    16. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Katayama, Roy, 2009. "Sources of Welfare Disparities across and within Regions of Brazil: Evidence from the 2002-03 Household Budget Survey," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4803, The World Bank.
    17. Peter Lindner, 2015. "Factor decomposition of the wealth distribution in the euro area," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 291-322, May.
    18. Emmanuel Skoufias & Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, 2009. "Latin America - Determinants of Regional Welfare Disparities within Latin American Countries : Country Case Studies," World Bank Other Operational Studies 3051, The World Bank.
    19. Josef Novotný, 2010. "Regionální ekonomická konvergence, divergence a další aspekty distribuční dynamiky evropských regionů v období 1992-2006
      [Regional Convergence, Divergence and Other Aspects of Distributional Dynami
      ," Politická ekonomie, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2010(2), pages 166-185.
    20. Casilda Lasso de la Vega & Ana Urrutia, 2008. "The ‘Extended’ Atkinson family: The class of multiplicatively decomposable inequality measures, and some new graphical procedures for analysts," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 6(2), pages 211-225, June.
    21. Martin Ravallion, 2017. "Global Inequality when Unequal Countries Create Unequal People," NBER Working Papers 24177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Jeffrey Zax, 2016. "Provincial valuations of human capital in urban China, inter-regional inequality and the implicit value of a Guangdong hukou," ERSA conference papers ersa16p693, European Regional Science Association.
    23. Rohit Mutatkar, 2005. "Social Group Disparities and Poverty in India," Development Economics Working Papers 22342, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    24. Rohit Mutatkar, 2009. "Social Group Disparities and Poverty in India," Working Papers id:1980, eSocialSciences.

    More about this item


    groups; identity; inequality decomposition; policy; D31; D63;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement


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