Income Inequality in the Arab Region: Data and Measurement, Patterns and Trends

Middle East Development Journal (MEDJ), Vol. 1, 2009

Posted: 4 Jun 2010

See all articles by Sami Bibi

Sami Bibi

Université Laval - Département d'Économique

Mustapha K. Nabli

World Bank

Date Written: December 1, 2009


This paper provides a review of empirical knowledge about income inequality in the Arab region, focusing primarily on the issues of data and measurement, and the characterization of its patterns and trends. The review shows good progress in the availability of data and quality of measurement. However, the region remains far behind progress being achieved worldwide in terms of coverage and comparability across countries, improvements in quality and content of data, and, more importantly, accessibility of available micro-data to scholars. Within these data constraints and limitations, the available evidence shows moderately high levels of inequality in terms of household expenditure compared to other regions of the world. The patterns of inequality show quite significant variation across countries. One striking result is the weak time variability of the inequality indexes in most of the countries of the region. Alternative measures of welfare distribution such as of horizontal inequality, polarization or inequality of opportunity have been widely used worldwide to supplement the Lorentz-based inequality criteria, but such measures are very scarce in Arab countries. We finally offer suggestions for a research agenda to better our understanding about the nature and determinants of inequality in the region.

Keywords: Inequality, redistribution, household surveys, data issues, Arab countries

Suggested Citation

Bibi, Sami and Nabli, Mustapha K., Income Inequality in the Arab Region: Data and Measurement, Patterns and Trends (December 1, 2009). Middle East Development Journal (MEDJ), Vol. 1, 2009. Available at SSRN:

Sami Bibi (Contact Author)

Université Laval - Département d'Économique ( email )

2325 Rue de l'Université
Quebec Canada, QC G1K 7P4

Mustapha K. Nabli

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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