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Which Inequality? The Inequality of Endowments versus the Inequality of Rewards

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  • Ed Hopkins
  • Tatiana Kornienko

Abstract

We introduce a new distinction between inequality in initial endowments (e.g., ability, inherited wealth) and inequality of what one can obtain as rewards (e.g., prestigious positions, money). We show that, when society allocates resources via tournaments, these two types of inequality have opposing effects on equilibrium behavior and well-being. Greater inequality of rewards hurts most people -- both the middle class and the poor -- who are forced into greater effort. Conversely, greater inequality of endowments benefits the middle class. Thus, the correctness of our intuitions about the implications of inequality is hugely affected by the type of inequality considered. (JEL D63, D82)

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/mic.2.3.106
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

Volume (Year): 2 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 106-37

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:2:y:2010:i:3:p:106-37

Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.2.3.106
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References

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  1. Mailath, George J, 1987. "Incentive Compatibility in Signaling Games with a Continuum of Types," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(6), pages 1349-65, November.
  2. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Ivan Werning, 2005. "The Equilibrium Distribution of Income and the Market for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 282-310, April.
  3. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
  4. Wing Suen, 2007. "The comparative statics of differential rents in two-sided matching markets," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 149-158, August.
  5. Brown, Gordon D. A. & Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J. & Qian, Jing, 2005. "Does Wage Rank Affect Employees' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 1505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869, August.
  7. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, Happiness and Relative Concerns: What Actually is their Relationship?," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001896, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Konrad, Kai A., 2007. "Strategy in contests: an introduction," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Processes and Governance SP II 2007-01, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  10. Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1992. "Asymmetric Tournaments, Equal Opportunity Laws, and Affirmative Action: Some Experimental Results," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 511-39, May.
  11. Robert Frank, 2000. "Does Growing Inequality Harm the Middle Class?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 253-264, Summer.
  12. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
  13. Robert M. Costrell & Glenn C. Loury, 2004. "Distribution of Ability and Earnings in a Hierarchical Job Assignment Model," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-135, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  14. Zenginobuz, Unal, 1996. "Concern for relative position, rank-order contests, and contributions to public goods," MPRA Paper 388, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. Cole, Harold L. & Mailath, George J. & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "Class systems and the enforcement of social norms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 5-35, October.
  16. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
  17. James Konow, 2003. "Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1188-1239, December.
  18. Fernandez, Raquel & Gali, Jordi, 1999. "To Each According to . . . ? Markets, Tournaments, and the Matching Problem with Borrowing Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(4), pages 799-824, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Fafchamps, Marcel & Kebede, Bereket & Zizzo, Daniel John, 2013. "Keep Up With the Winners: Experimental Evidence on Risk Taking, Asset Integration, and Peer Effects," CEPR Discussion Papers 9714, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Ed Hopkins (University of Edinburgh) and V. Bhaskar (University College London), 2011. "Marriage as a Rat Race: Noisy Pre-Marital Investments with Assortative Matching," ESE Discussion Papers 210, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  3. Chang, Simon & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2012. "The Economic Consequences of Excess Men: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan:," IFPRI discussion papers 1203, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  4. Marjit, Sugata, 2012. "Conflicting Measures of Poverty and Inadequate Saving by the Poor," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  5. Nikiforakis, Nikos & Noussair, Charles N. & Wilkening, Tom, 2012. "Normative conflict and feuds: The limits of self-enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 797-807.
  6. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2005. "Methods of Comparison in Games of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 138, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  7. Ed Hopkins, 2012. "Job Market Signaling Of Relative Position, Or Becker Married To Spence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 290-322, 04.
  8. Marjit, Sugata & Roy, Ranjan, 2010. "Conflicting Measures of Poverty and Inadequate Saving by the Poor – The Role of Status Driven Utility Function," MPRA Paper 27472, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Sugata Marjit & Sattwik Santra & Koushik Kumar Hati, 2014. "Does inequality affect the consumption patterns of the poor? – The role of status seeking behaviour," Discussion Papers Series 514, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  10. Marjit, Sugata & Santra, Sattwik & Hati, Koushik Kumar, 2014. "Does inequality affect the consumption patterns of the poor? – The role of “status seeking” behaviour," MPRA Paper 54118, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Bilancini, Ennio & Boncinelli, Leonardo, 2012. "Redistribution and the notion of social status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 651-657.
  12. Marjit, Sugata & Mandal, Biswajit, 2011. "Conspicuous Consumption, Social Status and Measures of Poverty – An Example," MPRA Paper 33745, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Apr 2011.
  13. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2007. "Status, Affluence, and Inequality: Rank-Based Comparisons in Games of Status," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001442, UCLA Department of Economics.
  14. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People’s Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 16800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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