Inference for income distributions using grouped data

Gholamreza Hajargasht, William Edward Griffiths, Joseph Brice, D S Prasada Rao, Duangkamon Chotikapanich

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27 Citations (Scopus)


We develop a general approach to estimation and inference for income distributions using grouped or aggregate data that are typically available in the form of population shares and class mean incomes, with unknown group bounds. We derive generic moment conditions and an optimal weight matrix that can be used for generalized method-of-moments (GMM) estimation of any parametric income distribution. Our derivation of the weight matrix and its inverse allows us to express the seemingly complex GMM objective function in a relatively simple form that facilitates estimation. We show that our proposed approach, which incorporates information on class means as well as population proportions, is more efficient than maximum likelihood estimation of the multinomial distribution, which uses only population proportions. In contrast to the earlier work of Chotikapanich, Griffiths, and Rao, and Chotikapanich, Griffiths, Rao, and Valencia, which did not specify a formal GMM framework, did not provide methodology for obtaining standard errors, and restricted the analysis to the beta-2 distribution, we provide standard errors for estimated parameters and relevant functions of them, such as inequality and poverty measures, and we provide methodology for all distributions. A test statistic for testing the adequacy of a distribution is proposed. Using eight countries/regions for the year 2005, we show how the methodology can be applied to estimate the parameters of the generalized beta distribution of the second kind (GB2), and its special-case distributions, the beta-2, Singh-Maddala, Dagum, generalized gamma, and lognormal distributions. We test the adequacy of each distribution and compare predicted and actual income shares, where the number of groups used for prediction can differ from the number used in estimation. Estimates and standard errors for inequality and poverty measures are provided. Supplementary materials for this article are available online.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563 - 575
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Business & Economic Statistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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