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Inequality among World Citizens : 1820-1992

  • François Bourguignon
  • Christian Morrisson

This paper investigates the distribution of well being among world citizens during the last two centuries. The estimates show that inequality of world distribution of income worsened from the beginning of the 19th century to World War II and after that seems to have stabilized or to have grown much more slowly. In the early 19th century most inequality was due to differences within countries; later, it was due to differences between countries. Inequality in longevity, also increased during the 19th century, but then was reversed in the second half the 20th century, perhaps mitigating the failure of income inequality to improve in the last decades.

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Paper provided by DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure) in its series DELTA Working Papers with number 2001-18.

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Date of creation: 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in American Economic Review, September 2002, vol. 92, no. 4, pp. 727-744
Handle: RePEc:del:abcdef:2001-18
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  1. Atkinson, Anthony B & Bourguignon, Francois, 1982. "The Comparison of Multi-Dimensioned Distributions of Economic Status," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(2), pages 183-201, April.
  2. Yotopoulos, Pan A, 1989. "Distributions of Real Income: Within Countries and by World Income Classes," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 35(4), pages 357-76, December.
  3. T. Paul Schultz, 1998. "Inequality in the distribution of personal income in the world: How it is changing and why," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 307-344.
  4. Charles I. Jones, 1997. "On the Evolution of the World Income Distribution," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 19-36, Summer.
  5. Grosh, Margaret E & Nafziger, E Wayne, 1986. "The Computation of World Income Distribution," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 347-59, January.
  6. Whalley, John, 1979. "The Worldwide Income Distribution: Some Speculative Calculations," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 25(3), pages 261-76, September.
  7. Pritchett, Lant, 1995. "Divergence, big time," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1522, The World Bank.
  8. Mookherjee, Dilip & Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1982. "A Decomposition Analysis of the Trend in UK Income Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 886-902, December.
  9. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
  10. Bourguignon, Francois, 1979. "Decomposable Income Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(4), pages 901-20, July.
  11. Summers, Robert & Kravis, Irving B. & Heston, Alan, 1984. "Changes in the world income distribution," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 237-269, May.
  12. T. Paul Schultz, 1998. "Inequality in the Distribution of Personal Income in the World: How it is Changing and Why," Working Papers 784, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  13. Shorrocks, A F, 1980. "The Class of Additively Decomposable Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 613-25, April.
  14. Quah, Danny T., 1996. "Empirics for economic growth and convergence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 1353-1375, June.
  15. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav & van de Walle, Dominique, 1991. "Quantifying Absolute Poverty in the Developing World," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(4), pages 345-61, December.
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