On Data: A Case Study of the Evolution of Income Inequality Across Time and Across Countries

Posted: 6 May 2009

See all articles by A. B. Atkinson

A. B. Atkinson

University of Oxford - Nuffield College of Medicine

Andrea Brandolini

Bank of Italy

Date Written: May 2009

Abstract

This paper takes income distribution as a case study of the role of data in economics. After describing the transformation which has taken place with regard to the availability of data on income inequality, it discusses how the comparability of these estimates is brought into question by differences in methodology that cannot be eliminated by simple adjustments. Recent analyses of the relationships between income inequality and growth or globalisation are shown to be based on time series plagued by discontinuities which can seriously affect regression results. The paper concludes by calling for greater attention to data quality in applied economics.

Keywords: Data quality, Measurement bias, Income distribution, Growth, Globalisation

JEL Classification: D31, C8

Suggested Citation

Atkinson, A. B. and Brandolini, Andrea, On Data: A Case Study of the Evolution of Income Inequality Across Time and Across Countries (May 2009). Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 33, Issue 3, pp. 381-404, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1397446 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cje/bel013

A. B. Atkinson (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Nuffield College of Medicine ( email )

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Andrea Brandolini

Bank of Italy ( email )

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Roma, Rome 00184
Italy
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+390647923720 (Fax)

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