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World Income Distribution: Which Way?


  • Peter Svedberg


Over the past few years, a large number of studies have aimed at estimating changes in relative income distribution both across countries and globally. Some of the studies find the distribution to have worsened considerably, others that it has become more even. One objective of this article is to identify and quantify the reasons for these conflicting results. Another objective is to highlight the difference between changes in relative and absolute income distribution. While the relative distribution over the entire range of countries seems to have improved somewhat over the past two to three decades according to the most relevant indicators, the absolute income gaps between rich and poor countries have widened considerably. It is further demonstrated that these gaps will inevitably continue to grow for many decades to come.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Svedberg, 2004. "World Income Distribution: Which Way?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(5), pages 1-32.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:40:y:2004:i:5:p:1-32
    DOI: 10.1080/0022038042000218125

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1990. "How Serious Is the Neglect of Intra-Household Inequality?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 866-881, September.
    2. Duncan Overfield, 1998. "An Investigation of the Household Economy: Coffee Production and Gender Relations in Papua New Guinea," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(5), pages 52-70.
    3. Gibson, John, 2001. "Literacy and Intrahousehold Externalities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 155-166, January.
    4. Deaton, Angus S & Ruiz-Castillo, Javier & Thomas, Duncan, 1989. "The Influence of Household Composition on Household Expenditure Patterns: Theory and Spanish Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 179-200, February.
    5. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1982. "Market Opportunities, Genetic Endowments, and Intrafamily Resource Distribution: Child Survival in Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 803-815, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brandolini Andrea & Carta Francesca, 2016. "Some Reflections on the Social Welfare Bases of the Measurement of Global Income Inequality," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-15, June.
    2. ELOUNDOU-ENYEGUE Parfait & TENIKUE Michel & KANDIWA Vongai M., 2013. "Population Contributions to Global Income Inequality: A Fuller Account," LISER Working Paper Series 2013-28, LISER.
    3. Emma Aisbett, 2007. "Why are the Critics So Convinced that Globalization is Bad for the Poor?," NBER Chapters,in: Globalization and Poverty, pages 33-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Anthony B. Atkinson & Andrea Brandolini, 2010. "On Analyzing the World Distribution of Income," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 24(1), pages 1-37, January.
    5. Katja Prevodnik & Vasja Vehovar, 2014. "Presenting dynamics of social phenomena: should we use absolute, relative or time differences?," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 799-816, March.
    6. Thomas Goda & Alejandro Torres, 2015. "Class or location? What explains the rising tide of absolute global income inequality during 1850-2010?," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO CIEF 012663, UNIVERSIDAD EAFIT.
    7. Imbriani, Cesare & Morone, Piergiuseppe, 2007. "Knowledge Opportunities and ICT – A Middle Income Country Experience between Growth and Inequality," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 60(4), pages 489-516.
    8. Thomas Goda & Alejandro Torres García, 2017. "The Rising Tide of Absolute Global Income Inequality During 1850–2010: Is It Driven by Inequality Within or Between Countries?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 1051-1072, February.
    9. repec:sgh:gosnar:y:2017:i:6:p:79-93 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Andrea Brandolini, 2006. "Measurement of Income Distribution in Supranational Entities: The Case of the European Union," LIS Working papers 452, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.

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