Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Theory and Evidence
AbstractIs inequality harmful for growth? We suggest that it is. In a society where distributional conflict is important, political decisions are likely to produce economic policies that allow private individuals to appropriate less of the returns to activities which promote growth, such as the accumulation of capital and productive knowledge. In this paper we formulate a theoretical model that formally captures this idea. The model has a politico-economic equilibrium, which determines a sequence of growth rates depending on structural parameters, political institutions and initial conditions. We then confront the model's testable empirical implications with two sets of data. The first data set pools historical evidence - dating back to the mid-nineteenth century - from the US and eight European countries. A second data set contains post-war evidence from a broad cross-section of developed and less developed countries. In both samples we find a statistically significant and quantitatively important negative relation between inequality and growth. After a comprehensive sensitivity analysis, we conclude that our findings are not distorted by measurement error, reverse causation, hetroscedasticity or other econometric problems.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 581.
Date of creation: Sep 1991
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Other versions of this item:
- Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini., 1991. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Theory and Evidence," Economics Working Papers 91-155, University of California at Berkeley.
- Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1991. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Theory and Evidence," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt00x7n68q, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
- Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 1991. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 3599, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
- E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
- H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
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