Global Income Inequality in Numbers: in History and Now

This article presents an overview of calculations of global inequality, recently and over the long term, and outlines the main controversies and political and philosophical implications of the findings. It focuses in particular on the winners and losers of the most recent episode of globalization, from 1988 to 2008. It suggests that the period has witnessed the first decline in inequality between world citizens since the Industrial Revolution. However, the decline can be sustained only if countries’ mean incomes continue to converge (as they have been doing during the past ten years) and if internal (within-country) inequalities, which are already high, are kept in check. Mean-income convergence would also reduce the huge ‘citizenship premium’ that is enjoyed today by the citizens of rich countries.