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Polarization of Time and Income – A Multidimensional Analysis for Germany

Economic Well-Being and Inequality: Papers from the Fifth ECINEQ Meeting

ISBN: 978-1-78350-567-8, eISBN: 978-1-78350-556-2

ISSN: 1049-2585

Publication date: 30 September 2014


A growing polarization of society accompanied by an erosion of the middle class is receiving increasing attention in recent German economic and social policy discussion. Our study contributes to this discussion in two ways: First, on a theoretical level we propose extended multidimensional polarization indices based on a constant elasticity of substitution (CES)-type well-being function and present a new measure to multidimensional polarization, the mean minimum polarization gap, 2DGAP. This polarization intensity measure provides transparency with regard to each single attribute, which is important for targeted policies, while at the same time respecting their interdependent relations. Second, in an empirical application, time is incorporated, in addition to the traditional income measure, as a fundamental resource for any activity. In particular, genuine personal leisure time will account for social participation in the sense of social inclusion/exclusion and Amartya Sen’s capability approach.

Instead of arbitrarily choosing the attribute parameters in the CES well-being function, the interdependent relations of time and income are evaluated by the German population. With the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) and detailed time use diary data from the German Time Use Surveys (GTUSs) 1991/1992 and 2001/2002, we quantify available and extended multidimensional polarization measures as well as our new approach to measuring the polarization of the working poor and affluent in Germany.

There are three prominent empirical results: Genuine personal leisure time in addition to income is an important and significant polarization attribute. Compensation is of economic and statistical significance. The new minimum 2DGAP approach reveals that multidimensional polarization increased in the 1990s in Germany.




We thank the participants of the ECINEQ 2013 conference in Bari, Italy, for their helpful comments.


Merz, J. and Scherg, B. (2014), "Polarization of Time and Income – A Multidimensional Analysis for Germany", Economic Well-Being and Inequality: Papers from the Fifth ECINEQ Meeting (Research on Economic Inequality, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 273-321.



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