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More Unequal Yet More Alike: The Changing Anatomy of Constituent Canadian Income Distributions in the 21st Century


  • Gordon Anderson
  • Jasmin Thomas


The Canadian income distribution is a mixture of many very different constituent income distributions, Aboriginal–non-Aboriginal, Male–Female, Urban–Rural. In part, the extent to which they differ reflects the Inequity of Life Chances across those various constituencies, which has long been one focus of the Canadian political agenda. A core component of the equal opportunity imperative is that, conditional on circumstance and effort, each and all should have the same opportunity for income. Assuming innate efforts and abilities are commonly distributed across those constituencies, measuring the extent of "inequality of opportunity" is a matter of measuring the manner and extent to which constituent income distributions are unequal. This task is somewhat obfuscated by the counterintuitive fact (illuminated by a subgroup decomposition of the Gini coefficient) that a collection of distributions can simultaneously become more (less) equal and more (less) polarized. Thus, it is possible that constituencies can at once become less equal and yet, at the same time, have more in common. Here, in a study of the evolution of Income distributions of Aboriginal–Non-Aboriginal, Male–Female and Urban–Rural constituencies in Canada, three new tools are introduced for measuring the degree of segmentation and polarization in a collection of constituencies and the extent of ambiguity in an Income Wellbeing ordering of those constituencies. The study reveals increasing inequality coincident with diminishing segmentation and polarization in the first decade of the 21st century indicating some small advancement of the Equal Opportunity agenda.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon Anderson & Jasmin Thomas, 2017. "More Unequal Yet More Alike: The Changing Anatomy of Constituent Canadian Income Distributions in the 21st Century," Working Papers tecipa-587, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-587

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John E. Roemer, 2014. "Economic Development as Opportunity Equalization," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(2), pages 189-209.
    2. Lefranc, Arnaud & Pistolesi, Nicolas & Trannoy, Alain, 2009. "Equality of opportunity and luck: Definitions and testable conditions, with an application to income in France," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1189-1207, December.
    3. Donna Feir & Robert L.A. Hancock, 2016. "Answering the Call: A Guide to Reconciliation for Quantitative Social Scientists," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 42(3), pages 350-365, September.
    4. Arnaud Lefranc & Nicolas Pistolesi & Alain Trannoy, 2008. "Inequality Of Opportunities Vs. Inequality Of Outcomes: Are Western Societies All Alike?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 54(4), pages 513-546, December.
    5. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
    6. Mookherjee, Dilip & Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1982. "A Decomposition Analysis of the Trend in UK Income Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 886-902, December.
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    1. repec:gam:jecnmx:v:6:y:2018:i:2:p:15-:d:137411 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Income Distributions; Equality of Opportunity; Segmentation; Polarization;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • C4 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics

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