|Figure 1: Inequality Versus Government Size|
The Gini coefficient is a measure of inequality, with a higher Gini coefficient denoting a more unequal distribution of income. It is defined as follows: sort the population in order of increasing income. Plot the percentage of income received by those poorer than each value of income against the percentage of the population with less than that value of income. This is the Lorenz curve, and it will fall below a line with a slope of 45 degrees going through the origin. The Gini coefficient is the ratio of the area between the 45 degree line and the Lorenz curve to the area under the 45 degree line. A Gini coefficient of zero indicates perfect equality, while a Gini coefficient of unity arises when one person receives all income and everybody else gets nothing. Consequently, the Gini coefficient lies between zero and one.
I take the data as given from the OECD. I'm not worrying about whether income is found per family, household, or individual. Nor am I worrying about whether government expenditures include transfer payments and include both state and Federal spending. I took data from the year 2000 because that seems to be the most recent year with data for both dimensions and in which the Gini coefficient is given for a definite year. The OECD lacks 2000 data in one or another dimension for Iceland, South Korea, Mexico, the Slovak Republic, and Turkey. The plotted points consist of data from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Among advanced capitalist nations, countries with bigger governments tend to have a more equal distribution of income.