Anything Lorenz Curves Can Do, Top Shares Can Do: Assessing the TopBot Family of Inequality Measures

Guillermina Jasso

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Newly precise evidence of the trajectory of top incomes in the United States and around the world relies on shares and ratios, prompting new inquiry into their properties as inequality measures. Current evidence suggests a mathematical link between top shares and the Gini coefficient and empirical links extending as well to the Atkinson measure. The work reported in this article strengthens that evidence, making several contributions: First, it formalizes the shares and ratios, showing that as monotonic transformations of each other, they are different manifestations of a single inequality measure, here called TopBot. Second, it presents two standard forms of TopBot, which satisfy the principle of normalization. Third, it presents a new link between top shares and the Gini coefficient, showing that properties and results associated with the Lorenz curve pertain as well to top shares. Fourth, it investigates TopBot in mathematically specified probability distributions, showing that TopBot is monotonically related to classical measures such as the Gini, Atkinson, and Theil measures and the coefficient of variation. Thus, TopBot appears to be a genuine inequality measure. Moreover, TopBot is further distinguished by its ease of calculation and ease of interpretation, making it an appealing People’s measure of inequality. This work also provides new insights, for example, that, given nonlinearities in the (monotonic) relations among inequality measures, Spearman correlations are more appropriate than Pearson correlations and that weakening of correlations signals differences and shifts in distributional form, themselves signals of income dynamics.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)947-981
    Number of pages35
    JournalSociological Methods and Research
    Volume49
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Nov 2020

    Keywords

    • Atkinson measure
    • Gini coefficient
    • Pareto distribution
    • continuous univariate distributions
    • general inequality parameter
    • lognormal distribution
    • power-function distribution
    • principles of inequality measurement
    • top shares
    • top-to-bottom ratios

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Sociology and Political Science

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