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Upward and downward bias when measuring inequality of opportunity

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  • Paolo Brunori

    (Dipartimento di Scienze per l'Economia e l'Impresa)

  • Vito Peragine
  • Laura Serlenga

Abstract

We show that, when measuring inequality of opportunity with survey data, scholars face two types of biases. A well-known downward-bias, due to partial observability of cir- cumstances that affect individual outcome, and an upward bias, which is the consequence of sampling variance. The magnitude of the latter distortion depends on both the empirical strategy used and the observed sample. We suggest that, although usually neglected in em- pirical contributions, the upward bias may be significant. We propose a simple criterion to select the best specification which balances between the two sources of bias. Our method is based on cross validation and can be easily implemented to survey data. In order to show how this method can improve our understanding of the inequality of opportunity measure- ment, we provide an empirical illustration based on income data of 26 European countries. Our evidence shows that estimates of inequality of opportunity are extremely sensitive to model selection. Alternative specifications lead to significant differences in the absolute level of inequality of opportunity and to a number of substantial countries’ re-ranking. This in turn clarifies the need of an objective criterion to select the best econometric model when measuring inequality of opportunity.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Brunori & Vito Peragine & Laura Serlenga, 2017. "Upward and downward bias when measuring inequality of opportunity," Working Papers - Economics wp2017_02.rdf, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze per l'Economia e l'Impresa.
  • Handle: RePEc:frz:wpaper:wp2017_02.rdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality of opportunity; model selection; variance-bias trade-off;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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