Two types of inequality: Inequality between persons and inequality between subgroups

Guillermina Jasso, Samuel Kotz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article analyzes the mathematical connections between two kinds of inequality: inequality between persons (e.g., income inequality) and inequality between subgroups (e.g., racial inequality). The authors define a general inequality parameter in two-parameter continuous distributions. This parameter governs all measures of personal inequality (e.g., the Gini coefficient) and governs as well the gap (difference or ratio) between the means of subdistributions. It is thus established that in the distributions analyzed here, as personal inequality increases, so does inequality between subgroups. This general inequality parameter also governs Lorenz dominance and all quantities in the decomposition of Theil's mean logarithmic deviation into between-subgroup and within-subgroup components in the Pareto case. Thus, the general inequality parameter captures the ''deep structure'' of inequality. Finally, a whole-distribution graphical tool is introduced for assessing personal and subgroup inequality. Substantively, this work suggests that in societies characterized by special income distributions, whenever inequality disrupts social cohesion, it attacks on two fronts, via subgroup inequality as well as personal inequality.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)31-74
    Number of pages44
    JournalSociological Methods and Research
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Aug 2008


    • Atkinson measure
    • Coefficient of variation
    • Continuous univariate distributions
    • Gini coefficient
    • Lognormal distribution
    • Lorenz curve
    • Pareto distribution
    • Power-function distribution
    • Theil's MLD
    • Two-parameter distributions

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Sociology and Political Science


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