A Theory for Ranking Distribution Functions

Rolf Aaberge, Tarjei Havnes and Magne Mogstad

Memo 20/2014


We propose a general framework to unambiguously compare distributions functions in an economically interpretable way. Our framework provides complete ranking of any set of distributions and money metric interpretation of the social welfare level of a dominating distribution as compared to a dominated distribution. We show the usefulness of our framework using two empirical applications; the first assesses the welfare implications of changes in household income distributions over the business cycle, while the second performs a social welfare comparison of the actual and counterfactual outcome distributions from a policy experiment.

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Published Sep. 9, 2014 3:24 PM - Last modified Jan. 24, 2019 11:44 AM