Iran’s Multi-ethnic Mosaic: A 23-Year Perspective

  • Mahdi Majbouri
  • Sanaz Fesharaki


In this study, we embark on measuring inequality in Iran. We compute three measures of group-based inequality (Group-weighted Coefficient of Variation, Group-weighted Gini, and Group-weighted Theil) for the following outcomes: education, assets, income, and expenditure per capita. The groups are defined based on gender, ethnicity/language (Persian, Azeri, and other ethnic minorities), and region (urban versus rural and capital city versus other places) using 23 years of annual Household Expenditure and Income Surveys from 1990 through 2012. Inequality between groups based on religion (Muslim, non-Muslim), citizenship (Iranian, non-Iranian) are also studied using the 2006 census. Our analysis of the trend of horizontal inequality reveals substantial reduction in between-group inequalities over the 1990–2012 period. Yet, gender based income inequality remains high. The implications and underlying reasons for these results are discussed.


Group-based inequality Inequality among ethnicities Gender inequality Regional inequality Inequality measures Iran 



This research was supported by United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) as part of the ‘Disadvantaged Groups and Social Mobility’ project. We are thankful to Dr. Rachel Gisselquist and Dr. Carla Canelas who provided expertise and valuable advice that greatly assisted the research. We are also grateful to the editor in chief, Prof. Filomena Maggino, the anonymous referee, and our colleagues in UNU-WIDER workshop for insightful comments. Specially, we have to express our appreciation to Dr. Ivan Gachet for sharing his code with us. The funding for this research was generously provided by the United Nations University –WIDER project on ‘The politics of group-based inequalities—measurement, implications, and possibilities for change’ which is part of a larger research project on “Disadvantaged Groups and Social Mobility.” All remaining errors are ours.


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Copyright information

© UNU-WIDER 2017 2017
corrected publication 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economics DivisionBabson CollegeWellesleyUSA
  2. 2.Economics DepartmentVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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