We evaluate observed inequality between population groups against a benchmark of the maximum between-group inequality attainable given the number and relative sizes of those groups under examination. Because our measure is normalized by these parameters, drawing comparisons across different settings is less problematic than with conventional inequality decompositions. Moreover, our measure can decline with finer sub-partitioning of population groups. Consequently, the exact manner in which one groups the population acquires greater significance. Survey data from various countries suggest that our approach can provide a complementary perspective on the question of whether (and how much) a particular population breakdown is salient to an assessment of inequality in a country. © Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2007.