Measuring Segregation: Basic Concepts and Extensions to Other Domains

April 25, 2012

By: SILBER Jacques


This paper presents the main concepts used in measuring segregation. First it shows that the cardinal as well as the ordinal approach to the measurement of occupational segregation, when only two groups are considered (generally men and women), borrowed many ideas from the income inequality measurement literature. Second, it shows that more recent advances in segregation measurement, that were the consequence of an extension of segregation measures to the case of multi-group segregation and more recently to the analysis of ordinal segregation, could be the basis for additional approaches to the measurement of economic inequality, in particular inequality in life chances, health and happiness, and eventually also to the study of polarization. Finally because the measurement of spatial segregation is a field in itself, this paper only marginally mentions concepts that have been introduced in this no less fascinating domain.
Keywords: health inequality; inequality in hapiness; inequality in life chances; multidimensional segregation; occupational segregation; ordinal segregation; polarization; residential segregation
JEL: D31

The Evolution of Income, Consumption, and Leisure Inequality in The US, 1980-2010

April 19, 2012

By: Orazio Attanasio, Erik Hurst and Luigi Pistaferri

Recent research has documented that income inequality in the United States has increased dramatically over the prior three decades. There has been less of a consensus, however, on whether the increase in income inequality was matched by an equally large increase in consumption inequality. Most researchers have studied this question using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) and some studies have suggested that the increase in consumption inequality has been modest. Unfortunately ,there is now mounting evidence that the CE is plagued by serious non-classical measurement error, which hinders the extent to which definitive conclusions can be made about the extent to which consumption inequality has evolved over the last three decades. In this paper, we use a variety of different techniques to overcome the measurement error problems with the CE. First, we use data from the diary component of the CE, focusing on categories where measurement error has been found to be less of an issue. Second, we explore inequality measures within the CE using the value of vehicles owned, a consumption component that is considered to be measured well. Third, we try to account directly for the non-classical measurement error of the CE by comparing the spending on luxuries (entertainment) relative to necessities (food). This is similar to the recent approach taken by Browning and Crossley (2009) and Aguiar and Bils (2011). Finally, we use expenditure data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to explore the dynamics of alternative measures of consumption inequality. All of our different methods yield similar results. We find that consumption inequality within the U.S. between 1980 and 2010 has increased by nearly the same amount as income inequality.
JEL: D12