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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Inequality and Globalization: A Comment on Firebaugh and Goesling


The September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Sociology contains an article by Firebaugh and Goesling arguing that global income inequality has declined in recent decades as a result of economic globalization. This paper examines the methodological choices made by the authors, and some alternative estimates they overlooked. It concludes that there are many reasons to be cautious about accepting the claim that global income inequality is falling. At the least we have to (a) acknowledge evidence to the contrary, (b) explain why the counter evidence is not to be counted, and (c) acknowledge that even by the measures and data sources that show falling overall inequality, the result depends mostly on China.

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