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On the inefficiency of inequality

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  • Schiff, Maurice

Abstract

A number of studies have examined the implications of preference interdependence. This paper models individual utility as depending either on the level of other people's consumption or on the difference in consumption levels. It assumes that the impact of an increase in other people's consumption on individual utility diminishes with the level of consumption, raising individual utility when that consumption is very small and lowering it when that consumption is very large. Based on that plausible assumption, the paper shows that, whether individual utility depends on the level of other people's consumption or on the difference in consumption levels, i) welfare declines with inequality, ii) equilibrium inequality is inefficient, and iii) the optimal intervention leads to a more equal distribution. Implications for the role of development institutions are examined.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3360.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3360

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Keywords: Economic Theory&Research; Labor Policies; Environmental Economics&Policies; Financial Intermediation; Services&Transfers to Poor; Economic Theory&Research; Inequality; Environmental Economics&Policies; Governance Indicators; Financial Intermediation;

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  1. A. Abel, 2010. "Asset prices under habit formation and catching up with the Jones," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1395, David K. Levine.
  2. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
  3. Alesina, Alberto F & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2877, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Dayton-Johnson, Jeff & Bardhan, Pranab, 1996. "Inequality and Conservation on the Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt7f9913w9, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  5. Bénabou, Roland, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1450, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1994. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," CRSP working papers 412, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  7. Baland, J-M & Platteau, J-P, 1997. "Wealth Inequality and Efficiency in the Commons," Papers 193, Notre-Dame de la Paix, Sciences Economiques et Sociales.
  8. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 2013. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Working Papers 2013-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  10. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  11. Harald Uhlig & Lars Ljungqvist, 2000. "Tax Policy and Aggregate Demand Management under Catching Up with the Joneses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 356-366, June.
  12. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1991. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 211-35, April.
  13. Alesina, Alberto F & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 565, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Pollak, Robert A, 1976. "Interdependent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(3), pages 309-20, June.
  15. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  16. Bill Dupor & Wen-Fang Liu, 2003. "Jealousy and Equilibrium Overconsumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 423-428, March.
  17. Barro, Robert J, 2000. " Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
  18. John Y. Campbell & John Cochrane, 1999. "Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 205-251, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Gruen, Carola & Klasen, Stephan, 2012. "Has transition improved well-being?," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 11-30.

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