English title: Understanding Inequality-Comparatively

Author(s): Peter Saunders -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2014


This book is a valuable addition to the existing literature on economic inequality.Coming relatively soon after the publication of the comprehensive and authorita-tive Oxford Handbook of Economic Inequality (Salverda et al., 2009), two majorreports on inequality by the OECD (2008, 2011), and the detailed account of recentglobal shifts in top incomes by Atkinson and Piketty (2010), one might haveexpected that income distribution research has already been more than adequatelyserved. Not so. As this ?ne book exempli?es, there are many intriguing questionsabout the nature, causes, and consequences of economic inequality that remainunresolved and/or unexplored and the complex theoretical and empirical issuesconfronting distributional analysts raise many new avenues of inquiry that providefertile ground for future research.A dominant feature of the rapid growth in income distribution studies overthe last ?ve decades has been the emphasis given to empirical examination ofexisting conditions, past trends and their possible causes, contributors, and con-sequences. This trend has been facilitated by the increased existence and availabil-ity of household income surveys that give researchers the ability to study what hashappened, to check the robustness of ?ndings using sensitivity analysis, to linkthese data to other survey and administrative data, and to explore the associationsbetween income distribution parameters and other economic, social, and politicalvariables. Such surveys, as Tony Atkinson notes in his Foreword to this volume,are under a dual threat represented by their increasing cost and declining responserates in the face of public resistance and privacy concerns (including, in somecountries, those associated with data matching). These threats apply not only tothe conduct of the surveys themselves, but also to the effort (and cost) involved inmaking the data available to researchers. Yet without the latter, the case for theformer becomes weaker and with it the justi?cation for asking (in some countriesrequiring) survey respondents to provide the information on which the entireedi?ce rests

Volume: 61

Issue: 3

From page no: 587

To page no: 595


DOI: 10.1111/ROIW.12121

Journal: The Review of Income and Wealth

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