The Changing Shape of Global Inequality 1820–2000; Exploring a New Dataset

19 Pages Posted: 10 May 2014

See all articles by Jan Luiten Van Zanden

Jan Luiten Van Zanden

Utrecht University

Joerg Baten

University of Tuebingen

Peter Foldvari

Utrecht University

Bas van Leeuwen

Utrecht University, Humanities; Free University, Humanities; Warwick University, Department of Economics

Date Written: June 2014

Abstract

A new dataset for charting the development of global inequality between 1820 and 2000 is presented, based on a large variety of sources and methods for estimating (gross household) income inequality. On this basis we estimate the evolution of global income inequality over the past two centuries. Two sets of benchmarks about between‐country inequality (the Maddison 1990 benchmark and the recent 2005 ICP round) are taken into account. We find that between 1820 and 1950, increasing per capita income is combined with increasing global inequality. After 1950, global inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient or the Theil index remains more or less constant. It also appears that the global income distribution was uni‐modal in the nineteenth century, became increasingly bi‐modal between 1910 and 1970 with two world wars, a depression and de‐globalization, and was suddenly transformed back into a uni‐modal distribution between 1980 and 2000.

Keywords: economic development, inequality, output convergence, world

JEL Classification: D63, N10, O47

Suggested Citation

Van Zanden, Jan Luiten and Baten, Joerg and Foldvari, Peter and van Leeuwen, Bas, The Changing Shape of Global Inequality 1820–2000; Exploring a New Dataset (June 2014). Review of Income and Wealth, Vol. 60, Issue 2, pp. 279-297, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2435352 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/roiw.12014

Joerg Baten

University of Tuebingen ( email )

Wilhelmstr. 19
72074 Tuebingen, Baden Wuerttemberg 72074
Germany

Peter Foldvari

Utrecht University

Bas Van Leeuwen

Utrecht University, Humanities ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG
Netherlands

Free University, Humanities ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV
Netherlands

Warwick University, Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

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