Skyscrapers: Visualizing global income inequality

The global distribution of income has changed dramatically since 1980. The figure below shows the world income distribution in 1980, where countries are ordered from poorest in red on the left to richest in green on the right. The height of each bar shows the average income in each decile within a country, ordered from the poorest 10% (at the front) to the richest 10% (at the back).

By 2014, which is the latest available data, many countries have changed their ranking, and the heights of the bars also become more unequal, with some very tall skyscrapers appearing.

Use this interactive tool to explore how the income distribution within and between countries has changed over time (1980-2014). For up to seven countries of your choice, you can create a ‘skyscraper’ diagram, view the Lorenz curves and Gini coefficients, and compare the Rich/Poor ratio of incomes within each country. For the skyscraper figure in context, see Figure 1.2 in The Economy and Figure 1.1 in Economy, Society, and Public Policy.

To find out more about the trends in income and income inequality over the past few centuries, how to measure inequality, and policies that can address economic inequality visit our Economic Inequality pathway on the online learning platform LabXchange.

 

LabXchange is Harvard’s online community for educators, learners, and researchers to collaborate on educational content. CORE has partnered with LabXchange to be the first provider of economics content.

A pathway is a learning experience assembled like a storyline, consisting of different elements – for example, text with slideline figures and questions with immediate feedback. We suggest the order in which these elements should be presented to students, however, teachers have the flexibility to select some, and incorporate them to other material they are already using on LabXchange.

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