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Equilibrium Income Inequality among Identical Agents

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  • Freeman, Scott

Abstract

The paper offers a theory of income differences in which income inequality exists and persists despite identical tastes and talents. Teams of unskilled labor supervised by schooled managers produce goods with increasing returns to scale. Agents are assumed unable to borrow to fund the human capital investment needed to become managers. Despite ex ante identical agents, the model displays the following equilibrium phenomena: (1) risk-averse agents accept fair gambles, implying an unequal ex post distribution of unearned income; (2) agents agree to publicly subsidize education, although those receiving the subsidy have the highest material wealth; and (3) incomes and educational differences are perpetuated from generation to generation. Copyright 1996 by University of Chicago Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 104 (1996)
Issue (Month): 5 (October)
Pages: 1047-64

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:104:y:1996:i:5:p:1047-64

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  1. Waldman, Michael, 1984. "Worker Allocation, Hierarchies and the Wage Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 95-109, January.
  2. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1990. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Discussion Papers 911, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  4. Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Authority, Control, and the Distribution of Earnings," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 311-323, Autumn.
  5. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-67, June.
  6. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Joulfaian, David & Rosen, Harvey S, 1993. "The Carnegie Conjecture: Some Empirical Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 413-35, May.
  7. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
  8. Marshall, John M, 1984. "Gambles and the Shadow Price of Death," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(1), pages 73-86, March.
  9. Garratt, Rod & Marshall, John M, 1994. "Public Finance of Private Goods: The Case of College Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 566-82, June.
  10. Ng Yew Kwang, 1965. "Why do People Buy Lottery Tickets? Choices Involving Risk and the Indivisibility of Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73, pages 530.
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