Poverty and income inequality

Brock Smith, Thomas McGregor, Samuel Wills, 28 August 2016

One of the biggest challenges in fighting poverty is to know where it is. This column describes a new way to measure poverty by using satellites to count people who live in darkness at night. This shows that the economic benefits of oil booms don’t trickle down to the very poor.

Brian Nolan, Max Roser, Stefan Thewissen, 27 August 2016

With inequality rising and household incomes across developed countries stagnating, accurate monitoring of living standards cannot be achieved by relying on GDP per capita alone. This column analyses the path of divergence between household income and GDP per capita for 27 OECD countries. It finds several reasons why GDP per capita has outpaced median incomes, and recommends assigning median income a central place in official monitoring and assessment of living standards over time.

Avinash Persaud, 26 August 2016

The vote for Brexit was seen by some as a vote of ignorance, laced with xenophobia. This column argues that it was not an irrational vote of the ignorant, but a highly rational vote by the same losers from trade as elsewhere across the world. To compensate them, efforts should be made to upskill displaced workers and build them affordable homes to rent in places where the new jobs are. Ignoring this rise of trade nationalism would be far more dangerous than leaving the EU.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 22 August 2016

One-dimensional indicators such as GNI per capita are known to be flawed measures of wellbeing. The Human Development Index (HDI) introduced dimensions of health and education alongside income. This column argues that an HDI adjusted for inequality and hours worked gives deeper insight into a country's economic standing. Using this composite measure, the US falls from first to seventh among G8 countries.

Roy Van der Weide, Christoph Lakner, Elena Ianchovichina, 11 August 2016

Household income surveys underestimate income inequality because they fail to capture top incomes. A popular solution is to combine the household survey with data from income tax records, though for countries like Egypt these records are not available, leading to an underestimate of inequality. This column argues that data on house prices can instead be used to estimate the top tail of the income distribution. Using this method the Gini index for urban Egypt increases from a survey-based figure of 0.36, which suggests that it is one of the world’s most equal countries, to 0.47.

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