OECD Statistics Working Papers

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The OECD Statistics Working Paper Series - managed by the OECD Statistics Directorate – is designed to make available in a timely fashion and to a wider readership selected studies prepared by staff in the Secretariat or by outside consultants working on OECD projects. The papers included are of a technical, methodological or statistical policy nature and relate to statistical work relevant to the organisation. The Working Papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

Joint Working Paper

Measuring Well-being and Progress in Countries at Different Stages of Development: Towards a More Universal Conceptual Framework (with OECD Development Centre)

Measuring and Assessing Job Quality: The OECD Job Quality Framework (with OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs)

Forecasting GDP during and after the Great Recession: A contest between small-scale bridge and large-scale dynamic factor models (with OECD Economics Directorate)

Decoupling of wages from productivity: Macro-level facts(with OECD Economics Directorate)


Measuring Income Inequality and Poverty at the Regional Level in OECD Countries You or your institution have access to this content

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Mario Piacentini1
Author Affiliations
  • 1: OECD, France

28 Aug 2014
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The extent to which income inequality and poverty vary within countries across different regions is very relevant for policy decisions and monitoring. However, sub-national measures are scarce, given the complexity of producing indicators at the regional level from the available data and the methodological issues related to cross-countries comparability. This paper presents a set of indicators of income inequality and poverty across and within regions for 28 OECD countries. These indicators were produced through a new household-level data collection based on internationally harmonized income definitions undertaken as part of the OECD project on “Measuring regional and local well-being for policymaking”. The data were collected at the OECD TL2 territorial level, corresponding to NUTS2 regions in Europe and to large administrative subdivisions (e.g. States in Mexico and Unites States) for non-European countries.

These estimates confirm that there are significant variations in levels of income inequality within countries, and that regional breakdowns are useful for understanding sources and patterns of income disparities and poverty. For most of the countries relying on survey data for measuring income distribution, standard cross-sectional indicators of income inequality and relative poverty at this regional level are estimated with low precision in the smallest regions due to small samples. This has two main implications for data producers and analysts. First, systematic reporting of confidence intervals is needed to make meaningful comparisons of inequality levels across regions and with respect to the national averages. Second, averaged measures for multiple years or small area estimation methods should be considered as means for obtaining more robust measures. The issues related to the estimation of standard errors for three-year averages in rotational panel surveys and to the definition of the computational sampling structure for sub-national estimates are discussed in the paper.

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