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The measurement of inequality of opportunity : theory and an application to Latin America

  • Ferreira , Francisco H. G.
  • Gignoux, Jeremie

What part of the inequality observed in a particular country is due to unequal opportunities, rather than to differences in individual efforts or luck? This paper estimates a lower bound for the opportunity share of inequality in labor earnings, household income per capita and household consumption per capita in six Latin American countries. Following John Roemer, the authors associate inequality of opportunity with outcome differences that can be accounted for by morally irrelevant pre-determined circumstances, such as race, gender, place of birth, and family background. Thus defined, unequal opportunities account for between 24 and 50 percent of inequality in consumption expenditure in the sample. Brazil and Central America are more opportunity-unequal than Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru."Opportunity profiles,"which identify the social groups with the most limited opportunity sets, are shown to be distinct from poverty profiles: ethnic origin and the geography of birth are markedly more important as determinants of opportunity deprivation than of outcome poverty, particularly in Brazil, Guatemala, and Peru.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4659.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4659
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  1. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  2. Bourguignon, Francois & Ferreira, Francisco H. G. & Walton, Michael, 2006. "Equity, Efficient and Inequality Traps: A Research Agenda," Working Paper Series rwp06-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Bourguignon, Francois, 1979. "Decomposable Income Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(4), pages 901-20, July.
  4. repec:dau:papers:123456789/1552 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. François Bourguignon & Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Marta Menéndez, 2007. "Inequality of opportunity in Brazil," Post-Print halshs-00754189, HAL.
  6. Arnaud Lefranc & Nicolas Pistolesi & Alain Trannoy, 2006. "Inequality of opportunities vs. inequality of outcomes: Are Western societies all alike?," Working Papers 54, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  7. Davidson, Russell & Duclos, Jean-Yves, 1998. "Statistical Inference for Stochastic Dominance and for the Measurement of Poverty and Inequality," Cahiers de recherche 9805, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  8. Alejandro Gaviria, 2007. "Social Mobility and Preferences for Redistribution in Latin America," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Fall 2007), pages 55-96, August.
  9. Denis Cogneau & Jérémie Gignoux, 2005. "Earnings Inequalities and Educational Mobility in Brazil over Two Decades," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 121, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
  10. Shorrocks, A F, 1980. "The Class of Additively Decomposable Inequality Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 613-25, April.
  11. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2000. "Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?," NBER Working Papers 7793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Vito Peragine, 2004. "Ranking Income Distributions According to Equality of Opportunity," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 2(1), pages 11-30, April.
  13. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  14. Denis Cogneau & Thomas Bossuroy & Philippe De Vreyer & Charlotte Guénard & Victor Hiller & Phillippe Leite & Sandrine Mesplé-Somps & Laure Pasquier-Doumer & Constance Torelli, 2006. "Inequalities and equity in Africa," Working Papers DT/2006/11, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
  15. John Roemer, 2006. "Review essay, “The 2006 world development report: Equity and development”," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 4(2), pages 233-244, August.
  16. Gary S. Field & Robert Duval Hernandez & Samuel Freije & Maria Laura Sanchez Puerta, 2007. "Intragenerational Income Mobility in Latin America," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 101-154, January.
  17. Van de Gaer, Dirk & Schokkaert, Erik & Martinez, Michel, 2001. "Three Meanings of Intergenerational Mobility," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(272), pages 519-37, November.
  18. Elbers, Chris & Lanjouw, Peter & Mistiaen, Johan A. & Ozler, Berk, 2005. "Re-interpreting sub-group inequality decompositions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3687, The World Bank.
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