DP15853 Inequality Beyond GDP: A Long View

Author(s): Leandro Prados de la Escosura
Publication Date: February 2021
Keyword(s): Augmented Human Development, Civil and Political Liberties, GDP, inequality, Life Expectancy, schooling, Well-being
JEL(s): I00, N30, O15, O50
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15853

The study of international well-being and its distribution remains focused on income. This paper addresses multidimensional well-being from a capabilities perspective during the last one-and-a-half centuries. Relative inequality (population-weighted) fell in health and education since the late 1920s, due to the globalisation of mass schooling and the health transition, but only dropped from 1970 onwards in terms of political and civil liberties, and declined since 1900 for augmented human development. These results are at odds with per capita income inequality that rose over time and only shrank from 1990 onwards. Relative and absolute well-being distribution behaved differently, with the distance between countries shrinking in relative terms but widening in absolute terms. Countries in the middle and lower deciles of the world distribution achieved the largest relative gain over the last century. Education and political and civil liberties were the main contributors to the evolution of augmented human development inequality, although longevity made a substantial contribution until the 1920s