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

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Abstract

Society often allocates valuable resources - such as prestigious positions, salaries, or marriage partners - via tournament-like institutions. In such situations, inequality affects incentives to compete and hence has a direct effect on equilibrium choices and hence material outcomes. 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 these two types of inequality have opposing effects on equilibrium behavior and wellbeing. Greater inequality of rewards tends to hurt most people — both the middle class and the poor, — who are forced into greater effort. In contrast, greater inequality of endowments tends to benefit the middle class. Thus, which type of inequality is considered hugely affects the correctness of our intuitions about the implications of inequality.

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Paper provided by Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh in its series ESE Discussion Papers with number 185.

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Length: 40
Date of creation: Mar 2008
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Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:185

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Keywords: inequality; endowments; rewards; relative position; ordinal rank; games; tournaments; dispersive order; star order.;

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Bhaskar, Venkataraman & Hopkins, Ed, 2011. "Marriage as a Rat Race: Noisy Pre-Marital Investments with Assortative Matching," CEPR Discussion Papers 8529, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. 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.
  5. Ennio Bilancini & Leonardo Boncinelli, 2008. "Redistribution and the Notion of Social Status," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 029, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics.
  6. Hopkins, Ed & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2009. "Status, affluence, and inequality: Rank-based comparisons in games of status," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 552-568, November.
  7. 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.
  8. Marcel Fafchamps & Bereket Kebede & Daniel John Zizzo, 2014. "Keep Up With the Winners: Experimental Evidence on Risk Taking, Asset Integration, and Peer Effects," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 14-03, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2005. "Methods of Comparison in Games of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 138, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  13. 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).
  14. 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.

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