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Detecting a change in wealth concentration without the knowledge of the wealth distribution


Consumption is commonly used as a proxy for permanent income. We go a step further by establishing the link between the distribution of consumption and that of permanent income in terms of dominance orderings. We introduce two new dominance orderings, the Generalized Top Lorenz test and the related affluence ordering. If consumption is a concave function of permanent income, we get an indirect and robust method to detect a change in permanent income concentration when the full stream of income receipts along the life cycle is unknown and only consumption data are available. Our application on US data for the period 1980–2002 points out the difficult start in life of people belonging to the “Baby loser generation” (people born in the sixties) with respect to the previous and following cohort.

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Correspondence to Alessandra Michelangeli.

Additional information

Preliminary versions of this paper have been presented at the Ecineq Conference (Berlin 2007) LGVC (Marseille 2009), PET Conference (Galway 2009), and the Cornell/LSE Conference on Inequality: New Directions. We thank participants and in particular Rolf Aaberge, Anthony Atkinson, Frank Cowell, Ravi Kanbur, Nicolas Pistolesi and two referees for useful comments. We also thank Fabrizio Perri for the availability of his data. Alessandra Michelangeli thanks MIUR (Prin 2007) for financial support. The usual disclaimer applies.

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Michelangeli, A., Peluso, E. & Trannoy, A. Detecting a change in wealth concentration without the knowledge of the wealth distribution. J Econ Inequal 9, 373–391 (2011).

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  • Concavity
  • Wealth
  • Affluence orderings
  • Consumption

JEL Classification

  • D31
  • D63
  • D91