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Decomposing world income distribution : does the world have a middle class ?

  • Milanovic, Branko
  • Shlomo Yitzhaki

Using national income and expenditure distribution data from 119 countries, the authors decompose total income inequality between the individuals in the world, by continent and by"region"(countries grouped by income level). They use a Gini decomposition that allows for an exact breakdown (without a residual term) of the overall Gini by recipients. Looking first at income inequality in income between countries is more important than inequality within countries. Africa, Latin America, and Western Europe and North America are quite homogeneous continent, with small differences between countries (so that most of the inequality on these continents is explained by inequality within countries). Next the authors divide the world into three groups: the rich G7 countries (and those with similar income levels), the less developed countries (those with per capita income less than or equal to Brazil's), and the middle-income countries (those with per capita income between Brazil's and Italy's). They find little overlap between such groups - very few people in developing countries have incomes in the range of those in the rich countries.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2562.

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Date of creation: 31 Mar 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2562
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  1. Dagum, Camilo, 1980. "Inequality Measures between Income Distributions with Applications," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(7), pages 1791-1803, November.
  2. Lerman, Robert I. & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1984. "A note on the calculation and interpretation of the Gini index," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 15(3-4), pages 363-368.
  3. Pyatt, Graham, 1976. "On the Interpretation and Disaggregation of Gini Coefficients," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(342), pages 243-55, June.
  4. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1994. "Economic distance and overlapping of distributions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 147-159, March.
  5. Chotikapanich, Duangkamon & Valenzuela, Rebecca & Rao, D S Prasada, 1997. "Global and Regional Inequality in the Distribution of Income: Estimation with Limited and Incomplete Data," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 533-46.
  6. Silber, Jacques, 1989. "Factor Components, Population Subgroups and the Computation of the Gini Index of Inequality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 107-15, February.
  7. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1982. "Relative deprivation and economic welfare," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 99-113.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1984. "Inequality Decomposition by Population Subgroups," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1369-85, November.
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