Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Income or Wealth Inequality ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   10 Comments )
Subject: Income or Wealth Inequality
Category: Business and Money > Economics
Asked by: tribune-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 14 Apr 2005 17:53 PDT
Expires: 14 May 2005 17:53 PDT
Question ID: 509430
How does the United States rank on income or wealth inequality
relative to the rest of the World?  How does the United States rank on
growth in income or wealth inequality relative to the rest of the

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 15 Apr 2005 19:50 PDT
Hello tribune-ga,

The topic you asked about is of great interest to me, and I was hoping
to have the time to post an answer but, alas, the commenters below
beat me to it (but they did a good job -- hat's off!).

Still, I think can offer a bit more information in the form of this
Request for Clarification.

The Gini rankings are one of several common measures of inequality,
which are handily summed up here:

In the UN's annual Human Development Report.  

This is a large (almost 300 page) report, so if you don't have
broadband, be patient with the download.

Table 14 in the report is "Inequality in income or consumption" and
contains the Gini numbers, along with other ranking measures of income
inequality.  The explanations of the data are given in teeny type in
the footnotes at the end of the table.

Have a look.  Then, if there's something you'd like as an answer to
your question, let us know, and we'll do our best to help you out.

All the best,


P.S.  Your question hasn't been answered yet, and you won't be charged
for the information you receive unless a researcher eventually does go
ahead and post a formal answer.

Clarification of Question by tribune-ga on 15 Apr 2005 20:55 PDT
Thanks for the lead on the UN document.  I am ready to post another
closely related question relative to studies of upward social mobility
(sociology) or intergenerational income mobility (economics).  This is
the point that
myoarin-ga is making.  Unfortunately I am not familiar with your
protocols and do not know quite how to do that.  Recommendations?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 16 Apr 2005 13:07 PDT

Your best bet for asking a new question is to simply post a brand new
item, much the same way that you posted this current question.

As for the current question, if it hasn't been answered fully to your
satisfaction, you can cancel it, or let us know what sort of
additional information you would like.

If the information I provided about the UN report has met your needs,
then let me know, and I will post it as an answer, in which case you
will be charged the fee you offered for this question.

On the other hand, if the information provided in the comments, below,
was what you needed, then these were offered as a freebie, and you
won't be charged.

It's entirely up to you, but anything you choose is absolutely fine as
far as I'm concerned.

Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 18 Apr 2005 06:43 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

I'm glad to hear that the UN report I cited met your needs for
information on income inequality around the world.

Here again is the link:

Please let me know if there's anything else you need before rating
this answer.  Just post a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your

All the best,


search strategy -- Google search on [ (gini OR ginni) inequality site:org ]
tribune-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
On the mark.  Thanks for the citation.

Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Apr 2005 19:02 PDT
This is an international perennial favorite statistic of socialist
politicians:  pick your numbers but generally on the line of:  10% of
the people have 90% of the wealth;  50% of the people have to survive
on 10% of the income.

One problem with such statistics is their veracity.
The other problem is that although the figures may be more or less
correct and constant for decade to decade, thus suggesting that it is
the same 10% that controls the wealth, say.  In actual fact in America
and Europe, the individuals are changing.  Sam Walton and Bill Gates
became extremely rich, but before they were not in that 10%.  Their
children and grandchildren may still be, but then the wealth gets
diluted, and other Sams and Bills come along.
At the other end, Vietnamese refugees started at the bottom of pile in
the seventies, having to live on their share of that 10% of income,
but some of them  (and Hispanics and others) manage to rise out of
this statistical portion.
In American and Europe the percentages may not change much, but the
people behind them do.
Admittedly, this is probably less the case in South America and parts of Asia.
But in China and India, a great deal of private wealth has been
created and is now owned by people who formerly had very little.
Successful socialist politicians who have improved their own financial
status  - moving in the middle ground between the two extremes
mentioned -  forget or don't recognize this, and some of their
economists don't either.
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 15 Apr 2005 06:15 PDT
That's a very interesting question that I had to dive in to.

Income inequality is often referred to as the "gini coefficient".  The
closer the Gini is to 0, the more equal income is distributed among
the nations citizens.  And simlarly, the higher the Gini, the more
inequal the income is distributed.

In the info I found, a Gini of 0 is complete equality where every
person has exactly the same income.  A Gini of 100 is complete
inequality where 1 person has 100% of the income and everyone else has

Here is a list of all the 150 countries with this data available in
ranking order (sorry for the poor format):

Country	Year	GINI
Spain	1996	23.02
Belarus	2001	24.50
Czechoslovakia	1992	24.51
Slovak Republic	2001	26.30
Turkmenistan	1999	26.50
Finland	2000	26.89
Belgium	1997	26.92
Cuba	1978	27.00
Czech Republic	2001	27.20
Sweden	2000	27.32
Norway	2000	27.54
Albania	1996	28.02
Rwanda	1984	28.90
Germany	2000	29.04
Suriname	1962	30.00
Luxembourg	2000	30.24
Japan	1997	30.31
Austria	1997	30.35
Lao	1992	30.40
USSR	1993	30.53
Pakistan	1997	30.58
Netherlands	1999	30.77
Slovenia	2001	31.00
Australia	2001	31.10
Barbados	1981	31.10
Yugoslavia, FR	1997	31.30
Korea, Republic of	1993	31.60
India	2000	31.70
Cyprus	1966	31.82
Taiwan	2000	31.94
Indonesia	1999	32.00
Mongolia	1997	32.12
Latvia	2001	32.20
Canada	2000	32.45
France	1995	32.70
Greece	1993	32.70
Bosnia And Herzegovina	1991	32.88
Switzerland	1992	33.10
Burundi	1992	33.30
Bulgaria	2001	33.30
Macedonia     	2001	33.40
Bangladesh	1996	33.60
Denmark	1995	33.70
Togo	1957	33.80
Poland	2001	34.10
Chad	1958	35.00
                  	1998	35.00
Myanmar	1958	35.00
Tanzania	2001	35.00
Algeria	1995	35.30
Romania	2001	35.30
Lithuania	2001	35.40
Kazakhstan	1996	35.40
Portugal	1995	35.60
Ireland	1996	35.62
Italy	2000	35.87
Vietnam	1998	36.10
Ukraine	2001	36.40
Jordan	1997	36.40
Mauritius	1991	36.69
Cote d`Ivoire	1995	36.70
Nepal	1996	36.70
New Zealand	1997	37.02
United Kingdom	1999	37.06
Azerbaijan	2001	37.30
Cambodia	1999	37.41
Kyrgyz Republic	2001	37.70
Egypt	2000	37.80
Serbia and Montenegro                                                 
       	2001	37.80
Djibouti	1996	38.10
Estonia	2001	38.50
Hungary	2001	38.60
Mauritania	1995	38.90
Morocco	1999	39.50
Yemen, Republic of	1992	39.50
Sudan	1969	40.00
Jamaica	1999	40.12
Madagascar	1999	40.18
Guyana	1993	40.20
Tunisia	1990	40.20
China	1998	40.30
Trinidad and Tobago	1992	40.30
Guinea	1995	40.40
Senegal	1995	41.30
Turkey	1994	41.50
Dahomey	1959	42.00
Fiji	1977	42.50
Iran	1984	42.90
Liberia	1974	43.00
Ghana	1998	43.44
Moldova	2001	43.50
Uruguay	1998	43.88
Venezuela	2000	44.18
Ethiopia	1996	44.20
Malaysia	1999	44.30
Kenya	1994	44.50
Congo	1958	44.70
Botswana	1994	45.10
Bahamas	1993	45.29
Georgia	2001	45.80
United States	2000	46.00
Seychelles	1984	47.00
Tajikistan    	1999	47.00
Uzbekistan	2001	47.17
Dominican Republic	1998	47.78
Singapore	2000	48.10
Philippines	2000	48.18
Costa Rica	2000	48.32
Armenia	2000	48.60
Peru	2000	49.33
Argentina	1998	49.35
Nicaragua	1993	50.30
Niger	1995	50.50
Israel	1995	50.51
Nigeria	1997	50.60
Puerto Rico	1989	50.86
Papua New Guinea	1996	50.90
Reunion	1977	51.00
Hong Kong	1996	52.00
Russian Federation	2001	52.10
Thailand	2000	52.20
Uganda	1999	53.63
Mexico	2000	53.71
Mali	1994	54.00
South Africa	1997	54.52
El Salvador	2000	54.76
Guatemala	2000	54.82
Lebanon	1960	55.00
Guinea-Bissau	1991	56.20
Sri Lanka	2000	56.65
Ecuador	2000	56.71
Panama	2000	57.05
Colombia	2000	57.77
Honduras	1999	58.43
Paraguay	1999	59.42
Brazil	2001	59.93
Iraq	1956	60.00
Swaziland	1994	60.90
Cameroon	1996	60.98
Central African Republic	1993	61.30
Chile	2000	61.40
Malawi	1993	62.00
Bolivia	2000	62.15
Sierra Leone	1989	62.90
Zambia	1998	64.73
Lesotho	1995	68.50
Gambia	1994	69.23
Burkina Faso	1998	69.59
The Zimbabwe	1995	74.61

The United states is ranked 102 out of 150.  Below average but not
horrible (assuming you think income inequality is a bad thing).  But
do notice that this info is not available for current years in every
county so the results are not exact.  Lebanon for example has its
latest data from 1960.
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: tribune-ga on 15 Apr 2005 13:08 PDT
Thank you very much for your prompt reply.  Am I allowed to ask for
the source of your information? I was aware of some of these GINI
figures but not all of them.  As to the problem of intergenerational
income transfers or upward social mobility, it is surely real but
there are studies of that as well.  I will be happy to put up some
additional funds if one of you wants to take a crack at that.
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: myoarin-ga on 15 Apr 2005 18:36 PDT
Hi, we are both comenters and do this for love  - or some other funny
reason.  Only Researchers, whose user names appear in blue can
"answer" your question and receive the price.
Hmmm?  I have seen researchers do a lot of work for lower priced questions ....
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: felldownstairs-ga on 16 Apr 2005 11:40 PDT
Tribune-ga, both Jack-of-few-trades and Pafalafa gave you the info you
need, or at least a shove in the right direction to find the info you
need. So there really isn't anything that I can add in that area.
However, I would like to point out that the Gini measures (or any
other measure of comparative income distributions) are not relevant
indicators of the standard of living in a country. Having a relatively
low measure of income inequality, such as in the case of Rwanda, does
not, by default, imply anything about that country's respective
national income, education standards (access, availability, literacy
and numeracy skills), national investment (be it physical or human
capital) or other measures of the productive capacity of an economy
such as employment, inflation, etc.

It's great to say that a country has an income distribution that is
relatively "normal" but what is the mean income? In other words, if
everyone is poor....You see where I'm going.

Just thought I would toss that out for you to consider while looking
at the Gini list.
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: tribune-ga on 16 Apr 2005 12:50 PDT
felldownstairs-ga: You are absolutely correct.  You need both the
measurement of central tendency and the measurement of variation to
judge any distribution of wealth and/or income.  Actually you need to
look at the shape of the distribution itself, looking for bimodality,
among other things.  No one is responding on studies of income
mobility so I guess I will have to put up a prize here.  A retired
professor can't put up a lot.  Think 50 would get us started?
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: felldownstairs-ga on 16 Apr 2005 13:41 PDT
Tribune-ga: When you say that you are ready to post another closely
related question on the topic of income mobility, I'm going to assume
that by "closely related" your meaning is that you are seeking some
sort of ranking for degree of intergenerational income mobility across

If that is the case, I think you may run into some problems finding
any sort of accurate listing (if there is even any listing at all
regardless of accuracy). I know that the OECD does not compile any
data to do with such (and they generally have one of the best
databases of economic indicators for cross-country comparisons). I
believe the problem is that unlike income inequality, there exists no
standard for measuring income mobility. Different researchers believe
different theories, use different data sets, and therefore completely
different analytical frameworks. So the results gathered for one
country may not be comparable to the results for another country as
the methodologies are entirely different.

Another major problem has to do with the availability of useful data
sets. Most studies have looked at the US or the UK as there are
sufficient sets of longitudinal data, whereas other studies (canada in
particular, have had to rely on income tax data as a sort of proxy).
As such it's not possible to accurately compare the results from
different countries given that the data used were entirely different.

Further, there are arguments regarding the degree of income mobility
across genders as well (that there tends to be greater mobility from
parents to female offspring) which only serves to "muddy the waters"
so to speak.

Even more problematic is the fact that using simple simnple measures
of net income do not account for consumption practices which have a
considerable impcat on transferrable permanent income. However, there
are no truly accurate indicators of permanent income either.

Regardless, you could always use a proxy estimate for the whole thing
if you desired. The prevalent belief is that there exists a high
correlation between income-mobility across generations and the extent
to which parents invest in the human capital of their children. I
guess given this, you could simply approximate from the numerous
measures of HCI for separate nations. But I wouldn't trust this too
far as it limits the societal factors that also impact the transfer of
income across generations. For instance, culture may play a large role
in this as well, especially in cultures where family is considered to
be of utmost importance. Take Botswana for instance, the degree of HCI
is fairly low, but the high value placed on family ensures a fairly
large measure of intergenerational income-mobility.

I guess the end result is that you may be out of luck if you are
indeed looking for some sort of international comparison for
intergenerational income mobility. There are a number of papers out
there that seek to compare developed countries, but the whole area of
research is much like the questions of returns to education where each
new set of results contradicts previous analyses, and the answer
depends in a large part on the model and data used.

Sorry bout that.

(If you want some references for papers I can provide them, but you
may not be able to get your hands on them unless you have access to
NBER or JStor - or you're close to a university library).
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: tribune-ga on 17 Apr 2005 15:09 PDT
Felldownstairs-ga:  Very complete information.  Yes, I would like some
of the sources you cite.  I am on a university campus and can probably
find them.  I should pay something here for all this information.  Why
don't you just charge me for the first question asked.  The UN Gini
data was worth that.  I believe you are right however, than no matter
how badly they are needed, international intergenerational income
mobility studies are not extant at this time.
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: myoarin-ga on 18 Apr 2005 05:48 PDT
You're on call :)

This has been very interesting.  
Jack's remark after the list:  "if you think income inequality is a
bad thing."  Perfect income equality would preclude anyone's working
for some else: a society of subsistence farmers.
Although income equality is a goal of socialist politicians, no
society could thrive if that became the guiding principle of the
government.  And the government cannot make up the difference.  If it
taxes away all the higher income of the better earners and subsidises
the poor, it stifles initiative and ambition at both ends.  Why work
harder, if the additional income is going to be taxed away?  Why work
at all, if one can subsist comfortably on the dole?
Once extortionary tax rates in Sweden, for example, and German
unemployment payments (till this year, maybe) and support for
political refugees, who can live here better than they ever could back
in the Third World.

There must be inequalities.  Some people do things that are
productive, create additional value, and some only serve.  We
shouldn't need rag-pickers, but we need garbage collectors, and they
have to be paid privately or via local government, and simply cannot
earn as much as those who pay them, privately or out of their taxes 
(Hmm! There is probably somethign wrong about that...).
The alternative is that everyone disposes of his own garbage, but that
is less efficient from a view of the whole economy.

I wonder what influence public sector employment has on Gini?  
Anyway, very interesting.
Subject: Re: Income or Wealth Inequality
From: tribune-ga on 18 Apr 2005 15:56 PDT
myoarin-ga:  In the Fourth Book of the Politics Aristotle (not Marx)
says that a state with large numbers of rich and large numbers of poor
is unstable and will likely colapse.  That translates into a bi-modal
statistical distribution.
It would therefore follow that the desired distribution is a normal
curve with a large middle class and a smaller poverty class and a
smaller rich class. We should be able to measure whether a nation is
moving toward a normal curve or away from a normal curve. Since, as
you pointed out, the means of these distributions differ, it is the
coefficient of variation, and not the Gini coefficient that gives you
better information about the nation. What is still missing is the
intergenerational income mobility studies.  They are so damn hard to

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy