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World welfare is rising: estimation using nonparametric bounds on welfare measures

I take a new approach to measuring world inequality and welfare over time by constructing robust bounds for these series instead of imposing parametric assumptions to compute point estimates. I derive sharp bounds on the Atkinson inequality index that are valid for any underlying distribution of income conditional on given fractile shares and the Gini coefficient. While the bounds are too wide to reject the hypothesis that world inequality may have risen, I show that world welfare rose unambiguously between 1970 and 2006. This conclusion is valid for alternative methods of dealing with countries and years with missing surveys, alternative survey harmonization procedures, and alternative GDP series, or if the inequality surveys used systematically underreport the income of the very rich or suffer from nonresponse bias.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 662.

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Length: 62 pages
Date of creation: 01 Dec 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:662
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  1. Singh, S K & Maddala, G S, 1976. "A Function for Size Distribution of Incomes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(5), pages 963-70, September.
  2. Anthony Barnes Atkinson & Andrea Brandolini, 2009. "On analysing the world distribution of income," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 701, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
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  7. Cowell, Frank A., 1991. "Grouping bounds for inequality measures under alternative informational assumptions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1-2), pages 1-14.
  8. Banerjee, Abhijit & Piketty, Thomas, 2004. "Top Indian Incomes, 1922-2000," CEPR Discussion Papers 4632, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Chen, Shaohua & Ravallion, Martin, 2001. "How Did the World's Poorest Fare in the 1990s?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 47(3), pages 283-300, September.
  10. Korinek, Anton & Mistiaen, Johan A. & Ravallion, Martin, 2005. "Survey nonresponse and the distribution of income," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3543, The World Bank.
  11. McDonald, James B. & Xu, Yexiao J., 1995. "A generalization of the beta distribution with applications," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1-2), pages 133-152.
  12. Salem, A B Z & Mount, T D, 1974. "A Convenient Descriptive Model of Income Distribution: The Gamma Density," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(6), pages 1115-27, November.
  13. Chen, Shaohua & Ravallion, Martin, 2008. "The developing world is poorer than we thought, but no less successful in the fight against poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4703, The World Bank.
  14. 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 306-16, August.
  15. 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.
  16. Murray, David, 1978. "Extreme values for Gini coefficients calculated from grouped data," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 389-393.
  17. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  18. Sanjay G. Reddy & Camelia Minoiu, 2007. "Has World Poverty Really Fallen?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 53(3), pages 484-502, 09.
  19. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2009. "Parametric Estimations of the World Distribution of Income," NBER Working Papers 15433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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