what are gini coefficients?

Jim heartfield jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk
Thu Aug 17 14:03:26 PDT 2000

At the risk of boring those in the know, I would love to know what the methodology of the gini coefficient is? Gini was the name of a soft drink here, that never quite took off (somewhere between sprite and fizzy water). I've always assumed that it was some measure of relative poverty (as opposed to absolute) but that's as much as I know.

Most of all I've noticed that conventional economics is very much at home with gini coefficients, in a way that it never was about old- fashioned inequality - something about mathematics makes it all sound so technical and impersonal. I guess that this is a measure of distributional inequality rather than one of social power.

In message <001101c00884$cfd4a9e0$41517e86 at rosserjb-b000.jmu.edu>, J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. <rosserjb at jmu.edu> writes
> [Apologies if this is a repeat. I goofed in sending
>an earlier version, so am repeating.]
> Have had an offlist discussion with Doug about the
>gini coefficient list he put out. It is from Branko
>Milanovic at the World Bank, but disagrees with some
>numbers that he has published. Mostly these disagreements
>are minor, but some are very serious. I think that these
>may involve typos by somebody posting the stuff to Doug.
> The two most wacko numbers are for Austria and Georgia.
>Austria is shown as going from 22.8 to 47.8. No way. I
>suspect the second number is 27.8.
> Georgia is shown as going from 25.3 to 24.3. Again, no
>way. In his book, _Income, Inequality, and Poverty during the
>Transition from Planned to Market Economies_ (World Bank,
>1998, Washington), Milanovic lists Georgia in 1993 as having
>a Gini of 56.0, one of the most unequal in the world.
> I note that Ginis are hard to calculate and there are many
>revisions and competing estimates out there. But those kinds
>of differences are due to errors in reporting to Doug from Branko.
>Barkley Rosser

-- James Heartfield

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