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On Economic Inequality$
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Amartya Sen

Print publication date: 1973

Print ISBN-13: 9780198281931

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198281935.001.0001

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Welfare Economics, Utilitarianism, and Equity

Welfare Economics, Utilitarianism, and Equity

(p.1) 1 Welfare Economics, Utilitarianism, and Equity
On Economic Inequality

Amartya Sen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The usefulness of the main schools of welfare economics (old and new) in measuring inequality is analysed. It is noted that the literature on Pareto optimality avoids distributional judgements altogether, and that the standard social welfare functions approach also fails to provide a framework for distributional discussions because of its concentration on individual orderings only. Utilitarianism (the dominant faith of ‘old’ welfare economics), is too concerned with the welfare sum to be concerned with the problem of distribution and can produce strongly anti‐egalitarian results. Hence, the use of welfare economics for measuring inequality is rejected.

Keywords:   economic inequality, inequality, measurement, Pareto optimality, social welfare functions, welfare economics

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