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Why not to aggregate up: the influence of aggregation on the ordering of distributions


  • Stephen Howes


Researchers in many fields of economics often compare distributions using some criterion or another of inequality, poverty or welfare. It is standard practice to base such comparative analysis on aggregated data. But will the results obtained be dependent on the degree of aggregation of the data? This paper argues, on the basis of a simulation study, that they will be since the probability of obtaining a ranking can increase rapidly with the degree of aggregation. Aggregation exaggerates the differences between similar distributions and overlooks crossings at the lower tail. A change in research strategy where possible and statistical inference used in its place.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Howes, 1993. "Why not to aggregate up: the influence of aggregation on the ordering of distributions," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 02, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stidar:02

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cowell, Frank A & Victoria-Feser, Maria-Pia, 1996. "Robustness Properties of Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(1), pages 77-101, January.
    2. van Praag, Bernard M S & Hagenaars, Aldi J M & van Eck, Wim, 1983. "The Influence of Classification and Observation Errors on the Measurement of Income Inequality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 1093-1108, July.
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    Aggregation; income distribution;


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