Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 703–717 | Cite as

On the measurement of plutonomy



Recently, a lot of attention is given to income variations occurring at the top of the income distribution. “What happens to the top 1 %?” is a question of crucial importance on the political level (Occupy Wall Street Movement) as well as on income inequality measurement level. Despite this increased interest, there is no rigorous measurement framework available in the literature for the measurement of plutonomy or “what happens to the top 1 %”. To fill this gap, this paper proposes a simple framework for the measurement of plutonomy. It exposes the ethical principles underlying plutonomy indices and develops restricted Lorenz dominance conditions that produce robust orderings of plutonomy between income distributions. Finally, the paper offers a brief empirical illustration using the World Top Incomes Database.


Income Distribution Lorenz Curve Poverty Measurement Measurement Framework Empirical Illustration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Marc Fleurbaey and two anonymous referees for their useful comments. We also thank Jonno Haisken-DeNew, Paul Frijters, Simon Grant, Jeffrey Kline, Linda Marchese, Kevin Moran and John Quiggin for useful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.School of EconomicsUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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