skip to content

Faculty of Economics

Journal Cover

Palma, J. G.

Has the Income Share of the Middle and Upper-middle Been Stable around the '50/50 Rule', or has it Converged towards that Level? The 'Palma Ratio' Revisited

Development and Change

Vol. 45(6) pp. 1416-1448 (2014)

Abstract: In an article published in this journal in 2011, an alternative measure of inequality was suggested, which has subsequently become known as ‘the Palma Ratio’. In this new article, the author of the original proposal revisits the argument for such a measure. Using new data, he examines whether the current remarkable homogeneity in the income share of the middle and upper‐middle around the world — the foundation of the so‐called ‘Palma Ratio’ — is an historically stable stylized fact, or whether it is a new phenomenon, the outcome of a process of convergence towards the current ‘50/50 Rule’ (in which half of the population in each country located within deciles 5 to 9 tends to appropriate about 50 per cent of the national income, or just above). Although partly written in response to a comment on the 2011 paper (published in this issue), the article also makes a substantive further contribution to the literature on inequality and the statistics to measure it.

Keywords: income distribution, inequality, 'Palma Ratio', homogeneous middle and upper- middle, convergence, institutional persistence, ideology, neo-liberalism, 'new left', Latin America, Africa, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, United States.

JEL Codes: D31, E11, E22, E24, E25, I32, J31, N16, N30, N36, O50, P16

Author links: Jose Gabriel Palma  

Publisher's Link:

Cambridge Working Paper in Economics Version of Paper: Has the income share of the middle and upper-middle been stable over time, or is its current homogeneity across the world the outcome of a process of convergence? The 'Palma Ratio' revisited , Palma, J. G., (2014)

Papers and Publications

Recent Publications

Galeotti, A., Golub, B. and Goyal, S. Targeting Interventions in Networks Econometrica, forthcoming [2020]

Jochmans, K., and Weidner, M. Fixed-Effect Regressions on Network Data Econometrica [2019]

Chen, J., Li, D., & Linton, O. A new semiparameteric estimation approach for large dynamic covariance matrices with multiple conditioning variables Journal of Econometrics [2019]

Agranov, M. and Elliott, M. Commitment and (in) Efficiency: A Bargaining Experiment Journal of the European Economic Association [2020]