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Rising Inequality as a Root Cause of the Present Crisis

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  • Engelbert Stockhammer

Abstract

The paper argues that the economic imbalances that caused the present crisis should be thought of as the outcome of the interaction of the effects of financial deregulation with the macroeconomic effects of rising inequality. In this sense rising inequality should be regarded as a root cause of the present crisis. We identify four channels by which it has contributed to the crisis. First, rising inequality creates a downward pressure on aggregate demand since it is poorer income groups that have high marginal propensities to consume. Second, international financial deregulation has allowed countries to run larger current account deficits and for longer time periods. Thus, in reaction to potentially stagnant demand two growth models have emerged: a debt-led model and an export-led model. Third, (in the debt-led growth models) higher inequality has led to higher household debt as working class families have tried to keep up with social consumption norms despite stagnating or falling real wages. Fourth, rising inequality has increased the propensity to speculate as richer households tend hold riskier financial assets than other groups. The rise of hedge funds and of subprime derivatives in particular has been linked to rise of the superrich.�

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst in its series Working Papers with number wp282.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp282

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Related research

Keywords: crisis; distribution; inequality; effective demand; growth regimes; post-Keynesian economics;

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  1. Eckhard Hein & Lena Vogel, 2007. "Distribution and growth reconsidered - empirical results for Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA," IMK Working Paper 03-2007, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
  2. Carmen Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2009. "Capital Flow Bonanzas: An Encompassing View of the Past and Present," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2008, pages 9-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gustav Horn & Simon Sturn & Till Treeck, 2010. "Die Debatte um die deutsche Exportorientierung," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer, vol. 90(1), pages 22-28, January.
  4. Hein, Eckhard & Mundt, Matthias, 2012. "Financialisation and the requirements and potentials for wage-led recovery : a review focussing on the G20," ILO Working Papers 470932, International Labour Organization.
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  1. Obama, Abe, Roosevelt: ecco perché aumentare i salari combatte la recessione
    by keynesblog in Keynes Blog on 2014-02-14 14:49:01
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Cited by:
  1. Thomas Goda, 2013. "Changes in income inequality from a global perspective: an overview," Working Papers PKWP1303, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group (PKSG).
  2. Thomas Goda, 2013. "The role of income inequality in crisis theories and in the subprime crisis," Working Papers PKWP1305, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group (PKSG).
  3. Giorgio Bellettini & Flavio Delbono, 2013. "Persistence of High Income Inequality and Banking Crises: 1980-2010," CESifo Working Paper Series 4293, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Russo, Alberto & Riccetti, Luca & Gallegati, Mauro, 2013. "Increasing Inequality and Financial Fragility in an An Agent Based Macroeconomic Model," MPRA Paper 51528, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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