Gini index


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

The Gini index is a measurement of the income distribution of a country's residents. This number, which ranges between 0 and 1 and is based on residents' net income, helps define the gap between the rich and the poor, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality.

There is also a generally negative correlation between Gini coefficients and per-capita GDP, because poorer nations tend to have higher index figures.

It was developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini and published in 1912.
 

Advantages of Gini index
 
(i) The Gini coefficient's main advantage is that it is a measure of inequality by means of a ratio analysis, rather than a variable unrepresentative of most of the population, such as per capita income or gross domestic product.
 
(ii) It can be used to compare income distributions across different population sectors as well as countries, for example the Gini coefficient for urban areas differs from that of rural areas in many countries (though the United States' urban and rural Gini coefficients are nearly identical).
 
(iii) It is sufficiently simple that it can be compared across countries and be easily interpreted. GDP statistics are often criticised as they do not represent changes for the whole population; the Gini coefficient demonstrates how income has changed for poor and rich. If the Gini coefficient is rising as well as GDP, poverty may not be improving for the majority of the population.
 
(iv) The Gini coefficient can be used to indicate how the distribution of income has changed within a country over a period of time, thus it is possible to see if inequality is increasing or decreasing.
 
(v) The Gini coefficient satisfies four important principles:
 
(a) Anonymity: it does not matter who the high and low earners are.
(b) Scale independence: the Gini coefficient does not consider the size of the economy, the way it is measured, or whether it is a rich or poor country on average.
(c) Population independence: it does not matter how large the population of the country is.
(d) Transfer principle: if income (less than the difference), is transferred from a rich person to a poor person the resulting distribution is more equal.
 

Disadvantages  of Gini index
 
(i) The Gini coefficient measured for a large economically diverse country will generally result in a much higher coefficient than each of its regions has individually. For this reason the scores calculated for individual countries within the EU are difficult to compare with the score of the entire US.
 
(ii) Comparing income distributions among countries may be difficult because benefits systems may differ. For example, some countries give benefits in the form of money while others give food stamps, which may not be counted as income in the Lorenz curve and therefore not taken into account in the Gini coefficient.
 
(iii) The measure will give different results when applied to individuals instead of households. When different populations are not measured with consistent definitions, comparison is not meaningful.
 
(iv) The Lorenz curve may understate the actual amount of inequality if richer households are able to use income more efficiently than lower income households. From another point of view, measured inequality may be the result of more or less efficient use of household incomes.
 
(v) As for all statistics, there will be systematic and random errors in the data. The meaning of the Gini coefficient decreases as the data become less accurate. Also, countries may collect data differently, making it difficult to compare statistics between countries.
 
(vi) Economies with similar incomes and Gini coefficients can still have very different income distributions. This is because the Lorenz curves can have different shapes and yet still yield the same Gini coefficient. As an extreme example, an economy where half the households have no income, and the other half share income equally has a Gini coefficient of ½; but an economy with complete income equality, except for one wealthy household that has half the total income, also has a Gini coefficient of ½.
 
(vii) Too often only the Gini coefficient is quoted without describing the proportions of the quantiles used for measurement. As with other inequality coefficients, the Gini coefficient is influenced by the granularity of the measurements. For example, five 20% quantiles (low granularity) will yield a lower Gini coefficient than twenty 5% quantiles (high granularity) taken from the same distribution.




Friday, 17th Jun 2016, 10:25:08 AM

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