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Estimating Lorenz Curves Using a Dirichlet Distribution

The Lorenz curve relates the cumulative proportion of income to the cumulative proportion of population. When a particular functional form of the Lorenz curve is specified it is typically estimated by linear or nonlinear least squares, estimation techniques that have good properties when the error terms are independently and normally distributed. Observations on cumulative proportions are clearly neither independent nor normally distributed. This paper proposes and applies a new methodology that recognises the cumulative proportional nature of the Lorenz curve data by assuming that the income proportions are distributed as a Dirichlet distribution. Five Lorenz-curve specifications are used to demonstrate the technique. Maximum likelihood estimates under the Dirichlet distribution assumption provide better-fitting Lorenz curves than nonlinear least squares and another estimation technique that has appeared in the literature.

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Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 802.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:802
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  1. Chotikapanich, Duangkamon, 1993. "A comparison of alternative functional forms for the Lorenz curve," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 129-138.
  2. Beach, Charles M & Davidson, Russell, 1983. "Distribution-Free Statistical Inference with Lorenz Curves and Income Shares," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 723-35, October.
  3. Kakwani, Nanak C & Podder, N, 1976. "Efficient Estimation of the Lorenz Curve and Associated Inequality Measures from Grouped Observations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(1), pages 137-48, January.
  4. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1983. "Ranking Income Distributions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 3-17, February.
  5. Whitney K. Newey & Kenneth D. West, 1986. "A Simple, Positive Semi-Definite, Heteroskedasticity and AutocorrelationConsistent Covariance Matrix," NBER Technical Working Papers 0055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Kakwani, N C & Podder, N, 1973. "On the Estimation of Lorenz Curves from Grouped Observations," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(2), pages 278-92, June.
  8. Kakwani, Nanak, 1980. "On a Class of Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(2), pages 437-46, March.
  9. Ryu, Hang K. & Slottje, Daniel J., 1996. "Two flexible functional form approaches for approximating the Lorenz curve," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1-2), pages 251-274.
  10. Rasche, R H, et al, 1980. "Functional Forms for Estimating the Lorenz Curve: Comment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 1061-62, May.
  11. Bishop, John A & Chakraborti, S & Thistle, Paul D, 1989. "Asymptotically Distribution-Free Statistical Inference for Generalized Lorenz Curves," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(4), pages 725-27, November.
  12. Datt, Gaurav, 1998. "Computational tools for poverty measurement and analysis," FCND discussion papers 50, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  13. Sarabia, J. -M. & Castillo, Enrique & Slottje, Daniel J., 1999. "An ordered family of Lorenz curves," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 43-60, July.
  14. McDonald, James B, 1984. "Some Generalized Functions for the Size Distribution of Income," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 647-63, May.
  15. Woodland, A. D., 1979. "Stochastic specification and the estimation of share equations," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 361-383, August.
  16. Basmann, R. L. & Hayes, K. J. & Slottje, D. J. & Johnson, J. D., 1990. "A general functional form for approximating the Lorenz curve," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1-2), pages 77-90.
  17. 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.
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