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The Intensity and Shape of Inequality: The ABG Method of Distributional Analysis

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Inequality is anisotropic: its intensity varies by income level. We here develop a new tool, the isograph, to focus on local inequality and illustrate these variations. This method yields three coefficients which summarize the shape of inequality: a main coefficient, α, which measures inequality at the median; and two correction coefficients, β and γ, which pick up any differential curvature at the top and bottom of the distribution. The analysis of a set of 232 microdata samples from 41 different countries in the LIS datacenter archive allows us to provide a systematic overview of the properties of the ABG (α β γ) coefficients, which are compared to a set of standard indices including Atkinson indices, generalized entropy, Wolfson polarization, and the GB2 distribution. This method also provides a smoothing tool that reveals the differences in the shape of distributions (the strobiloid) and how these have changed over time.
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Keywords: C16; C46; D31; comparisons; distributions; inequality; isograph; polarization; strobiloid

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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