Volume 21, Number 1 (March 2012)
The Journal of Income Distribution, Volume 21, Number 1 (March 2012) is now finally out. We apologise once again to our readers for the inordinate delay. Logistical problems at the Editorial Office have been hard to surmount.
Volume 21, Number 1 is, however, exciting and new! It brings together several articles related through geography and a few more disparate foci of research, all in the area of income distribution. It is once again a small but intense collection. Poverty, whether in terms of measuring it or vulnerability to it, or appreciating its presence (rectifiable or persistent) within distribution profiles, is the fundamental topic in the first four articles. In the fifth and final article, a different approach to measuring the potential for success in the Olympic Games is presented, using the tools of international income distribution.
The application of new sources of information to old and new questions is key to two of this issue's articles. In the first, poverty is analysed in its connection to income inequality by employing the data of the Gallup Wold Poll. This survey, authors Leonardo Gasparini and Pablo Glüzman argue, provides researchers with a unique opportunity to compute alternate poverty and inequality statistics, namely, the results of an identical questionnaire from national samples of adults on 132 countries on basic questions about demographics, education, employment, and household income. Observed, in sum, is that for Latin American and Caribbean countries, the poverty rankings obtained using the Gallup Poll data were consistent with those computed using microdata from individual national household surveys. Although the findings for inequality measures are not as re-confirming of national surveys, the authors do conclude that the Gallup World Poll constitutes a potentially very useful source of data for the international comparison of numerous social variables.
Interaction between tried and true methods for employing income inequality data (Lorenz curves and Gini indices, and distributions according to population shares, welfare optimality, and Nash-Courot) and the asking of new distributional questions is developed in the last article of this issue, “How Unequal is the Distribution of Olympic Success”, by Loek Groot. It probes the Olympic medal tally and finds that standard income inequality tools can be applied to the distribution of Olympic success to reveal its inequities. The introduction of potential redistribution strategies, such as assigning medals to countries based on alleged comparative advantages or forbidding governments from investing in the Olympic success for their country or redistributing outright medals from one country to another are rejected for their potentially awkward effects on the Olympic Games. Groot nonetheless maintains that some long-term changes in income distribution – an auction of entry tickets is one proposal – are definitely needed to achieve the expressed ambition of some of providing a level Olympic playing field for all competing nations of the world.
Vulnerability thresholds for poverty – both relative and absolute – are adopted in the second article in this issue by Marcelo Bérgolo, Guillermo Cruces and Andrés Ham, in the connection with the predictability of future poverty, and put through a series of validation exercises for a cross-sectional vulnerability framework. Changing the threshold measure used proves to be a far less predictive element than does altering the reference point for the households being classified, from those of the population in its entirety to those already poor households. Regionality again plays a part in this as in the first article.
For the first three articles in the issue reference is to the Latin/South American region of the world. In the first, by Gasparini and Glüzman, a subset of the World Gallup Poll’s over 130 countries is established as Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the article by Bérgolo, Cruces and Ham, the methodology is applied again within the same general global region, to the specific countries of Argentina and Chile. In the third article, by Alvaro Forteza and Irene Mussio, standard measures of the distribution and redistribution of lifetime labor income through a social security system are applied to Uruguay. The goal is to assess through simulations of lifetime declared labor income and flows of contributions and benefits to social security programs the reduction in income inequality across the nation. In the third Latin/South American comparative article, Forteza and Mussio are avowedly contributing to a joint effort to assess the redistributive impact of Social Security in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay. Intra-country comparisons within Latin America are not a focus internal to the article, with, however, the conclusions of findings regarding two countries noted in passing: Brazil and Chile are determined to have had a similar or greater impact, respectively, on rectifying inequality through the dispersion of Social Security wealth as has Uruguay, at a time when universal policy concerns include high informality and frequent contribution interruptions.
The fourth article in this issue, like its preceding three, tests the validity of correlates for poverty measuring in income distribution with empirical data. This article, by Haruhisa Nishino, Kazuhiko Kakamu, and Takashi Oga, incorporates Japanese data on family income and expenditures. Persistent income inequality is studied in light of Bayesian estimation, using the lognormal stochastic volatility (SV) model. The findings of these authors are first, that the model that has a time-series structure best describes economic inequality in Japan, second, that the dynamic SV model shows that income inequality in Japan is persistent, and third, that, after evaluating their effect on inequality, exogenous variables are determined to have little impact.
Each of the five articles provides thus insights into how researchers in the field of income distribution are tackling national and international income disparities in a new light. The articles incorporate different methodological approaches (new surveys, comparative vulnerability and distribution measures, lifetime-earnings simulations, and lognormal stochastic volatility modelling). Theorical assessment in this issue is largely left to the Book Reviews and expressed in connection with the assessments of a collection of essays dedicated to the memory of Peter L. Danner, called Looking Beyond the Individualism & Homo Economicus of Neoclassical Economics, by Edward J. O’Boyle, reviewed by Charles M.A. Clark and On Kolm’s Theory of Macrojustice, a collection by Claude Gamel and Michel Lubrano, reviewed by Mathiji Janssen.
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