Inequality in South Africa and Brazil : Can we trust the numbers?

"Much academic and policy-related research over the past decade has focused on one of two stylised facts: Brazilian inequality has decreased sharply over the last 10 years and South Africa’s level of inequality has remained stubbornly high. Brazil has become less unequal than it was 15 years ago, while South Africa has not. But is Brazil more or less unequal than South Africa? To answer this question, we must establish how comparable are the methods used in calculating the Gini coefficients of each country.The purpose of this note is to address this issue – are these regularly cited Gini coefficients of Brazil and South Africa generally comparable? The note begins with an explanation of how the Gini coefficient is calculated. Next,it discusses how the collection and measurement of income data may influence inequality measures. The key question of whether there are significant methodological differences in the calculation of inequality in South Africa and Brazil is tackled, before various adjusted measures are provided."