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Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Theory and Evidence

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  • Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini.

Abstract

Is inequality harmful for growth? We suggest that it is. To summarize our main argument: in a society where distributional conflict is more important, political decisions are more likely to produce economic policies that allow private individuals to appropriate less of the returns to growth promoting activities, such as accumulation of capital and productive knowledge. In the paper we first 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 testable empirical implications with two sets of data. A first data set pools historical evidence-which goes back to the mid 19th 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, hetroskedasticity, or other econometric problems.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of California at Berkeley in its series Economics Working Papers with number 91-155.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 1991
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Handle: RePEc:ucb:calbwp:91-155

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  1. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  2. Sergio T. Rebelo, 1990. "Long Run Policy Analysis and Long Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 3325, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
  4. Terrones, M., 1990. "Influence Activities And Economic Growth," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9006, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  5. Romer, Paul M, 1987. "Growth Based on Increasing Returns Due to Specialization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 56-62, May.
  6. Robert J. Barro & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1990. "Public Finance in Models of Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Robert J. Barro, 1989. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," NBER Working Papers 3120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Rodrik, Dani & Alesina, Alberto, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," Scholarly Articles 4551798, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Greenwood, J. & Jovanovic, B., 1988. "Financial Development, Growth, And The Distribution Of Income," RCER Working Papers 131, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  10. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 1988. "Credibility and politics," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(2-3), pages 542-550, March.
  11. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
  12. Romer, P.M., 1988. "Capital Accumulation In The Theory Of Long Run Growth," RCER Working Papers 123, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  13. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  14. Klepper, Steven & Leamer, Edward E, 1984. "Consistent Sets of Estimates for Regressions with Errors in All Variables," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 163-83, January.
  15. Lindert, Peter H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1985. "Growth, equality, and history," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 341-377, October.
  16. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1978. "Intermediate Preferences and the Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 317-30, March.
  17. Romer, Thomas, 1975. "Individual welfare, majority voting, and the properties of a linear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 163-185, February.
  18. Summers, Robert & Heston, Alan, 1988. "A New Set of International Comparisons of Real Product and Price Levels Estimates for 130 Countries, 1950-1985," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 34(1), pages 1-25, March.
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  1. Globalization, equality and liberty
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2005-11-10 16:15:02
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