IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/aecrev/v90y2000i1p96-129.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Unequal Societies: Income Distribution and the Social Contract

Author

Listed:
  • Roland Benabou

Abstract

This paper develops a theory of inequality and the social contract aiming to explain how countries with similar economic and political "fundamentals" can sustain such different systems of social insurance, fiscal redistribution, and education finance as those, of the United States and Western Europe. With imperfect credit and insurance markets some redistributive policies can improve ex ante welfare, and this implies that their political support tends to decrease with inequality. Conversely, with credit constraints, lower redistribution translates into more persistent inequality; hence the potential for multiple steady states, with mutually reinforcing high inequality and low redistribution, or vice versa.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland Benabou, 2000. "Unequal Societies: Income Distribution and the Social Contract," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 96-129, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:90:y:2000:i:1:p:96-129
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.90.1.96
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.90.1.96
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kenneth A. Couch & Thomas A. Dunn, 1997. "Intergenerational Correlations in Labor Market Status: A Comparison of the United States and Germany," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(1), pages 210-232.
    2. Bertola, Giuseppe, 1993. "Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1184-1198, December.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
    4. Ades, A. & Verdier, T., 1996. "The Rise and Fall of Elites: A Theory of Economic Development and Social Polarization in Rent-Seeking Societies," DELTA Working Papers 96-13, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
    5. Fernandez, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1998. "Public Education and Income Distribution: A Dynamic Quantitative Evaluation of Education-Finance Reform," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 813-833, September.
    6. Feldstein, Martin S, 1969. "The Effects on Taxation on Risk Taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(5), pages 755-764, Sept./Oct.
    7. William N. Evans & Wallace E. Oates & Robert M. Schwab & William N. Evans & Wallace E. Oates & Robert M. Schwab, 2004. "Measuring Peer Group Effects: A Study of Teenage Behavior," Chapters, in: Environmental Policy and Fiscal Federalism, chapter 13, pages 232-257, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Philippe Weil, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42.
    9. Larry G. Epstein & Stanley E. Zin, 2013. "Substitution, risk aversion and the temporal behavior of consumption and asset returns: A theoretical framework," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Leonard C MacLean & William T Ziemba (ed.), HANDBOOK OF THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL DECISION MAKING Part I, chapter 12, pages 207-239, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    10. George J. Borjas, 2021. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human-Capital Externalities," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Foundational Essays in Immigration Economics, chapter 7, pages 135-160, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    11. Clarke, George R. G., 1995. "More evidence on income distribution and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 403-427, August.
    12. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-298, April.
    13. Checchi, Daniele & Ichino, Andrea & Rustichini, Aldo, 1999. "More equal but less mobile?: Education financing and intergenerational mobility in Italy and in the US," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 351-393, December.
    14. Roland Benabou, 1993. "Workings of a City: Location, Education, and Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 619-652.
    15. Shantayanan Devarajan & Vinaya Swaroop & Heng-fu Zou, 1993. "What do governments buy?," CEMA Working Papers 513, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Roland Benabou, 1996. "Unequal Societies," NBER Working Papers 5583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Huw Lloyd-Ellis, 2003. "On the Impact of Inequality on Productivity Growth in the Short and Long Term: A Synthesis," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 29(s1), pages 65-86, January.
    3. Clemens, Christiane & Heinemann, Maik, 2015. "Endogenous growth and wealth inequality under incomplete markets and idiosyncratic risk," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 300-317.
    4. Roland Benabou, 2002. "Tax and Education Policy in a Heterogeneous-Agent Economy: What Levels of Redistribution Maximize Growth and Efficiency?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 481-517, March.
    5. Christophe Ehrhart, 2009. "The effects of inequality on growth: a survey of the theoretical and empirical literature," Working Papers 107, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    6. Riccarda Longaretti, 2001. "Wealth Distribution, Investment in Human Capital and Occupational Choice When Capital Markets Are Imperfect," Working Papers 38, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2001.
    7. Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Ross Levine, 2009. "Finance and Inequality: Theory and Evidence," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 287-318, November.
    8. Josef ZweimüLler, 2000. "Inequality, Redistribution, and Economic Growth," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 1-20, March.
    9. Foellmi, Reto & Josef Zweim¸ller, 2002. "Heterogeneous Mark-ups, Demand Composition, and the Inequality-Growth Relation," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 76, Royal Economic Society.
    10. Enea Baselgia & Reto Foellmi, 2022. "Inequality and growth: a review on a great open debate in economics," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2022-5, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. Patrick Bayer & Robert McMillan & Kim Rueben, 2004. "Residential Segregation in General Equilibrium," Working Papers 885, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    12. Reto Foellmi & Josef Zweimuller, 2006. "Income Distribution and Demand-Induced Innovations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 941-960.
    13. Joël Hellier & Stéphane Lambrecht, 2013. "Inequality, Growth and Welfare: The Main Links," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Joël Hellier & Nathalie Chusseau (ed.), Growing Income Inequalities, chapter 9, pages 274-311, Palgrave Macmillan.
    14. John Hassler & José Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2007. "Inequality and mobility," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 235-259, September.
    15. Zweimuller, Josef, 2000. "Schumpeterian Entrepreneurs Meet Engel's Law: The Impact of Inequality on Innovation-Driven Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 185-206, June.
    16. Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero, 2017. "How does inequality affect long-run growth?," Working Papers 84, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research.
    17. Jorge Soares, "undated". "Altruism and Self-interest in a Political Economy of Public Education," Working Papers 130, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    18. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
    19. Grossmann, Volker, 2008. "Risky human capital investment, income distribution, and macroeconomic dynamics," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 19-42, March.
    20. Benabou, Roland, 2005. "Inequality, Technology and the Social Contract," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 25, pages 1595-1638, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • P16 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Capitalist Economies - - - Capitalist Institutions; Welfare State
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy; Modern Monetary Theory

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:90:y:2000:i:1:p:96-129. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.