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Preferences, Spatial Prices and Inequality


  • Manisha Chakrabarty
  • Amita Majumder
  • Ranjan Ray


Much of the recent welfare analysis in the development literature has focussed attention on poverty. This is especially true for India which has seen a large proliferation in the poverty literature. This study departs from this tradition and focuses on inequality. It is based on the premise that as a country develops and experiences high growth rates, the focus should shift from poverty to inequality. Rising inequality leads to increasing marginalisation and greater social tension even while there may have been a general decline in poverty rates. The study examines the effect of prices on inequality. It does so in the heterogeneous country context of rural India during the recent period of economic reforms and beyond. It proposes a framework for calculating preference based “exact” price indices and shows its usefulness by consistently calculating spatial prices and regionally varying temporal prices that take into account both differences in preferences between states and changing preferences over time. The “exact” price indices are based on the recent “Exact Affine Stone Index” (EASI) demand system. This paper provides evidence on the usefulness of the proposed procedures by finding that the nature of inflation has been regressive during the first half (1999/2000 – 2004/5) and progressive during the second half (2004/5- 2009/10). The study also provides evidence based on panel estimation that suggests that while temporal price inflation has a positive effect on inequality, the effect of spatial prices on inequality is qualitatively quite different. The study also documents the positive role that rural developmental spending can play in reducing inequality. In contrast, an increase in non-farm labour productivity increases inequality. The sharp rise in inequality during the second half of our time period when India recorded high growth rates and falling poverty rates highlights the need for a closer look at inequality and its determinants as in this study.

Suggested Citation

  • Manisha Chakrabarty & Amita Majumder & Ranjan Ray, 2012. "Preferences, Spatial Prices and Inequality," Monash Economics Working Papers 52-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2012-52

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. D. Coondoo & A. Majumder & R. Ray, 2004. "A Method of Calculating Regional Consumer Price Differentials with Illustrative Evidence from India," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 50(1), pages 51-68, March.
    2. Ankita Mishra & Ranjan Ray, 2011. "Prices, Inequality, And Poverty: Methodology And Indian Evidence," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 57(3), pages 428-448, September.
    3. Amita Majumder & Ranjan Ray & Kompal Sinha, 2011. "The Calculation of Rural Urban Food Price Differentials from Unit Values in Household Expenditure Surveys: A new procedure and comparison with existing methods," Monash Economics Working Papers 24-11, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    4. Linh Vu Hoang, 2009. "Estimation of Food Demand from Household Survey Data in Vietnam," Working Papers 12, Development and Policies Research Center (DEPOCEN), Vietnam.
    5. Arthur Lewbel & Krishna Pendakur, 2009. "Tricks with Hicks: The EASI Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 827-863, June.
    6. Pendakur, Krishna, 2002. "Taking prices seriously in the measurement of inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 47-69, October.
    7. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
    8. Ashok Kotwal & Bharat Ramaswami & Wilima Wadhwa, 2011. "Economic Liberalization and Indian Economic Growth: What's the Evidence?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1152-1199, December.
    9. Aaron Nicholas & Ranjan Ray & Ma. Rebecca Valenzuela, 2010. "Evaluating the Distributional Implications of Price Movements: Methodology, Application and Australian Evidence," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 86(274), pages 352-366, September.
    10. Paul Blacklow & Ranjan Ray, 2000. "A Comparison of Income and Expenditure Inequality Estimates: The Australian Evidence, 1975-76 to 1993-94," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 33(4), pages 317-329.
    11. James Banks & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 1997. "Quadratic Engel Curves And Consumer Demand," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(4), pages 527-539, November.
    12. Mukesh Eswaran & Ashok Kotwal & Bharat Ramaswami & Wilima Wadhwa, 2007. "How does poverty decline? Evidence from India, 1983-1999," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 07-05, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
    13. Muellbauer, John, 1974. "Prices and Inequality: The United Kingdom Experience," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(333), pages 32-55, March.
    14. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav, 2002. "Why has economic growth been more pro-poor in some states of India than others?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 381-400, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abhimanyu Dadu & Namrata Gulati, 2014. "Inequality, neighborhoods and variation in prices," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2014-001, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.
    2. Namrata Gulati & Abhimanyu Dadu, 2014. "Inequality, Neighbourhoods and Variation in Prices," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 34(3), pages 1463-1484.

    More about this item


    Exact Affine Stone Index; Expenditure Inequality; Spatial Prices; Exact Price Index.;

    JEL classification:

    • C43 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Index Numbers and Aggregation
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East


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