Empirics of world income inequality

Glenn Firebaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

235 Scopus citations


This article employs a common general formula for inequality indexes to answer several basic questions about intercountry income inequality in recent decades: Has inequality across nations increased or declined (and why have earlier studies yielded mixed results)? Have different rates of population growth played a significant role in the trend? Have large nations dominated the trend? Are the results robust over different inequality measures and different income series? Two findings stand out. First, different rates of population growth in rich and poor nations played the predominant role in determining change in the distribution of per capita income across nations. Second, the centuries-old trend of rising inequality leveled off from 1960 to 1989. The dependency theory thesis of a polarizing world system receives no support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1597-1630
Number of pages34
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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