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An Extension of a Measure of Polarization, with an application to the income distribution of five OECD countries


We introduce an extension of the Esteban and Ray [Econometrica, 62:819–851 1994] measure of polarization that can be applied to density functions. As a by-product we also derive the Wolfson [Am. Econ. Rev., 84:353–358 1994] measure as a special case. This derivation has the virtue of casting both measures in the context of a (statistically) unified framework. We study the polarization of the distribution of household income for five OECD countries (LIS database): US, UK, Canada, Germany and Sweden.

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Correspondence to Joan Esteban.

Additional information

The present paper is essentially based on Esteban, Gradín and Ray [9], published as #218 in the working papers series of the Luxembourg Income Study. Changes have been kept to a minimum. We have provided a brief reference to the literature on polarization measurement that has appeared since then and have updated the data of our application.

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Esteban, J., Gradín, C. & Ray, D. An Extension of a Measure of Polarization, with an application to the income distribution of five OECD countries. J Econ Inequal 5, 1–19 (2007).

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Key words

  • income distribution
  • inequality
  • polarization

JEL classification

  • D31
  • D63
  • I32