Journal Article
Inequality Between Whom?

Patterns, Trends, and Implications of Horizontal Inequality in the Philippines

This article is currently available for early online view.

An overall decline in inequality within a country, when assessed using national-level measures, can evidently obscure important variation in inequality at the subnational level. However, social planners face a choice, whose importance we argue is often underestimated, in deciding the appropriate spatial and social boundaries along which inequality should be measured at the local level.

We illustrate the consequential nature of this choice by examining a historically unequal country that has experienced a recent overall decline in inequality at the national level. Drawing on census micro-data, we show the Philippines made impressive progress in reducing disparities in education and access to basic public services between 2000 and 2010.

This change, however, appears less positive when inequality is measured at the subnational level using spatial and social boundaries selected for their socio-political significance in the Philippines context. Specifically, using measures of total, within-group and between-group inequality, we find important differences within and between three salient ethno-religious groupings—Muslims, indigenous persons, and everyone else—as well as within and between three major island groupings, Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon.

We consider the implication of one of these differences—variation in between-group inequality—by examining its correlation with social and political instability at the subnational level. Our findings underscore the importance of examining inequality at appropriate localized levels of analysis and, specifically, selecting carefully the spatial and social boundaries along which it should be measured.

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