The Disturbing "Rise" of Global Income Inequality
We use aggregate GDP data and within-country income shares for the period 1970-1998 to assign a level of income to each person in the world. We then estimate the gaussian kernel density function for the worldwide distribution of income. We compute world poverty rates by integrating the density function below the poverty lines. The $1/day poverty rate has fallen from 20% to 5% over the last twenty five years. The $2/day rate has fallen from 44% to 18%. There are between 300 and 500 million less poor people in 1998 than there were in the 70s. We estimate global income inequality using seven different popular indexes: the Gini coefficient, the variance of log-income, two of Atkinson's indexes, the Mean Logarithmic Deviation, the Theil index and the coefficient of variation. All indexes show a reduction in global income inequality between 1980 and 1998. We also find that most global disparities can be accounted for by across-country, not within- country, inequalities. Within-country disparities have increased slightly during the sample period, but not nearly enough to offset the substantial reduction in across-country disparities. The across-country reductions in inequality are driven mainly, but not fully, by the large growth rate of the incomes of the 1.2 billion Chinese citizens. Unless Africa starts growing in the near future, we project that income inequalities will start rising again. If Africa does not start growing, then China, India, the OECD and the rest of middle-income and rich countries diverge away from it, and global inequality will rise. Thus, the aggregate GDP growth of the African continent should be the priority of anyone concerned with increasing global income inequality.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2002|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999.
"A Data Set on Income Distribution,"
CEMA Working Papers
575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Kremer, Michael & Onatski, Alexei & Stock, James, 2001.
"Searching for prosperity,"
Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy,
Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 275-303, December.
- Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 1997.
"What Can New Survey Data Tell Us about Recent Changes in Distribution and Poverty?,"
World Bank Economic Review,
World Bank Group, vol. 11(2), pages 357-82, May.
- Ravallion, Martin & Shaohua Chen, 1996. "What can new survey data tell us about recent changes in distribution and poverty?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1694, The World Bank.
- 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.
- Schultz, T.P., 1998. "Inequality in the Distribution of Personal Income in the World: How It Is Changing and Why," Papers 784, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
- T. Paul Schultz, 1998. "Inequality in the Distribution of Personal Income in the World: How it is Changing and Why," Working Papers 784, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
- Danny Quah, 1996. "Twin Peaks: Growth and Convergence in Models of Distribution Dynamics," CEP Discussion Papers dp0280, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- Pritchett, Lant, 1995.
"Divergence, big time,"
Policy Research Working Paper Series
1522, The World Bank.
- Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996.
"A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality,"
CEMA Working Papers
512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Quah, Danny, 1996.
"Twin Peaks: Growth and Convergence in Models of Distribution Dynamics,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
1355, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Quah, Danny T, 1996. "Twin Peaks: Growth and Convergence in Models of Distribution Dynamics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(437), pages 1045-55, July.
- Grosh, Margaret E & Nafziger, E Wayne, 1986. "The Computation of World Income Distribution," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 347-59, January.
- Shorrocks, A F, 1980. "The Class of Additively Decomposable Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 613-25, April.
- Steve Dowrick & Muhammad Akmal, 2005. "Contradictory Trends In Global Income Inequality: A Tale Of Two Biases," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(2), pages 201-229, 06.
- Bhagwati, Jagdish N, 1984. "Why Are Services Cheaper in the Poor Countries?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(374), pages 279-86, June.
- Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav & van de Walle, Dominique, 1991. "Quantifying Absolute Poverty in the Developing World," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(4), pages 345-61, December.
- Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
- Charles I. Jones, 1997.
"On the Evolution of the World Income Distribution,"
Journal of Economic Perspectives,
American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 19-36, Summer.
- Bourguignon, Francois, 1979. "Decomposable Income Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(4), pages 901-20, July.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8904. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.