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Inequality and growth in the very long run: inferring inequality from data on social groups

  • Modalsli, Jørgen

    ()

    (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)

Income distribution data from before the Industrial Revolution usually comes in the shape of social tables: inventories of a range of social groups and their mean incomes. These are frequently reported without adjusting for within-group income dispersion, leading to a systematic downward bias in the reporting of pre industrial inequality. This paper suggests a correction method, and applies it to an existing collection of twenty-five social tables, from Rome in AD 1 to India in 1947. The corrections, using a variety of assumptions on within-group dispersion, lead to substantial increases in the Gini coefficients. Combining the inequality levels with data on GDP, a robust positive relationship between income inequality and economic growth is confirmed. This supports earlier proposals, based on fewer data points, of a "super Kuznets curve" of increasing inequality over the entire pre-industrial period.

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File URL: https://www.sv.uio.no/econ/english/research/unpublished-works/working-papers/pdf-files/2011/Memo-11-2011.pdf
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Paper provided by Oslo University, Department of Economics in its series Memorandum with number 11/2011.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 28 Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2011_011
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Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway

Phone: 22 85 51 27
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Web page: http://www.oekonomi.uio.no/indexe.html
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  1. Branko Milanovic, 2002. "True World Income Distribution, 1988 and 1993: First Calculation Based on Household Surveys Alone," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 51-92, January.
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  10. J. L. Van Zanden, 1995. "Tracing the beginning of the Kuznets curve: western Europe during the early modern period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(4), pages 643-664, November.
  11. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2000. "Das Human Kapital," Working Papers 2000-17, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  12. Lambert, Peter J & Aronson, J Richard, 1993. "Inequality Decomposition Analysis and the Gini Coefficient Revisited," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1221-27, September.
  13. Yitzhaki, Shlomo & Lerman, Robert I, 1991. "Income Stratification and Income Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(3), pages 313-29, September.
  14. Ebert, Udo, 2010. "The decomposition of inequality reconsidered: Weakly decomposable measures," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 94-103, September.
  15. Oded Galor & Omar Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2006. "Inequality in Land Ownership, the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions, and the Great Divergence," DEGIT Conference Papers c011_001, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
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