The Arab inequality puzzle: the role of income sources in Egypt and Tunisia

Caroline Krafft, Elizabeth E. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Egypt and Tunisia are perceived to have high levels of inequality, yet based on standard measures, inequality in these two countries is not unusually high. In this study we explore a different dimension of inequality in Egypt and Tunisia by using a more complete measure of income and decomposing inequality by income sources (factor components). We find that higher-income households have more income sources than lower-income ones. Informal wage work and earnings from household enterprises are more common in Egypt than Tunisia, while formal wage work, pensions, and social assistance are more common in Tunisia. Social assistance does little to offset income inequality in either country. Enterprise earnings (in Egypt) and agricultural earnings (in Tunisia) as well as rent and other capital income in both countries play a large role in inequality. High inequality in these non-wage income sources and unequal access to income sources tied to wealth and capital may help explain why inequality is perceived to be high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalMiddle East Development Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 18 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Economic Research Forum.


  • Egypt
  • Income inequality
  • Tunisia
  • inequality decomposition
  • wages


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