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Exclusive Goods and Formal-Sector Employment


  • Reto Foellmi
  • Josef Zweimüller


We explore how the underemployment problem of less-developed economies is related to income inequality. Consumers have nonhomothetic preferences over differentiated products of formal-sector goods and thus inequality affects the composition of aggregate demand via the price-setting behavior of firms. We find that high inequality divides the formal sector into mass producers and exclusive producers (which serve only the rich); high inequality generates an equilibrium where many workers are crowded into the informal economy; and an increase in subsistence productivity raises the unskilled workers' wages and boosts employment due to the higher purchasing power of poorer households. (JEL D31, D43, E24, E26, J24)

Suggested Citation

  • Reto Foellmi & Josef Zweimüller, 2011. "Exclusive Goods and Formal-Sector Employment," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 242-272, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmac:v:3:y:2011:i:1:p:242-72 Note: DOI: 10.1257/mac.3.1.242

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James R. Tybout, 2000. "Manufacturing Firms in Developing Countries: How Well Do They Do, and Why?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 11-44, March.
    2. Djankov, Simeon & McLiesh, Caralee & Shleifer, Andrei, 2007. "Private credit in 129 countries," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 299-329, May.
    3. Foellmi, Reto & Oechslin, Manuel, 2007. "Who gains from non-collusive corruption?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 95-119, January.
    4. Foellmi, Reto & Zweimüller, Josef, 2006. "Mass Consumption, Exclusion and Unemployment," CEPR Discussion Papers 5824, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Vertical Product Differentiation and North-South Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 810-822, December.
    6. Dasgupta, Partha & Ray, Debraj, 1987. "Inequality as a Determinant of Malnutrition and Unemployment: Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(385), pages 177-188, March.
    7. Dehez, Pierre, 1985. "Monopolistic equilibrium and involuntary unemployment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 160-165, June.
    8. Diego Winkelried, 2005. "Income Distribution and the Size of the Informal Sector," Development and Comp Systems 0512005, EconWPA.
    9. Edmond, Chris & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Income dispersion and counter-cyclical markups," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 791-804, September.
    10. Chol-Won Li., "undated". "Inequality and Growth: A Schumpeterian Perspective," Working Papers 9609, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Feb 1998.
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    Cited by:

    1. Grigoryan, Aleksandr, 2011. "Interaction between monetary policy and income inequality in a deposits market," MPRA Paper 43555, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2012.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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