Journal of Applied Econometrics

Actual and counterfactual growth incidence and delta Lorenz curves: Estimation and inference

Journal Article

Summary Different economic growth episodes display very different distributional characteristics, both across countries and over time. Growth is sometimes accompanied by rising and sometimes by falling inequality. Applied economists have come to rely on the growth incidence curve, which gives the quantile‐specific rate of income growth over a certain period, to describe these differences. This paper introduces a mean‐independent analogue, the delta Lorenz curve, which gives the cumulative change in income share up to each quantile. We also develop estimation and inference procedures for both functions of quantiles. We establish the limiting null distribution of the test statistics of interest for those functions, and propose resampling methods to implement inference in practice. The proposed methods are used to compare the growth processes in the USA and Brazil during 1995–2007. Although growth in the average real wages was disappointing in both countries, the distribution of that growth was markedly different. In the USA, wage growth was mediocre for the bottom 80% of the sample, but much more rapid for the top 20%. In Brazil, conversely, wage growth was rapid below the median, and negative at the top. Wage shares fell in the USA up to the 83rd percentile, and rose in Brazil up to the 65th percentile.

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