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The Changing Distribution of Income: Evidence and Explanations

  • Anthony B. Atkinson

This article is concerned with the economics of the distribution of income, emphasizing aspects which have been missing from the recent literature. It begins with factor shares and the rise in real interest rates. These are important in their own right and in relation to the determination of wage differentials. The paper questions the conventional wisdom which locates rising inequality and unemployment solely in a shift in demand away from unskilled workers. This explanation is too partial in its approach, is hard to reconcile with the empirical evidence, and ignores labour market institutions and the role of social norms. In seeking to explain the experience of different countries, we need to look not just at wages but also at the capital market, and should not be limited to a simple competitive supply-and-demand story. Copyright Verein fü Socialpolitik and Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2000.

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Article provided by Verein für Socialpolitik in its journal German Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 1 (2000)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 3-18

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Handle: RePEc:bla:germec:v:1:y:2000:i:1:p:3-18
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  1. Atkinson, A-B, 1996. "Bringing Income Distribution in from the Cold," Economics Papers 117, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  2. Bulow, Jeremy I & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "A Theory of Dual Labor Markets with Application to Industrial Policy,Discrimination, and Keynesian Unemployment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 376-414, July.
  3. Simon Burgess & Julia Lane & David Stevens, 2001. "Jobs, Workers and Changes in Earnings Dispersion," CEP Discussion Papers dp0491, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Olivier J. Blanchard, 1993. "Movements in the Equity Premium," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 24(2), pages 75-138.
  5. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  6. McDonald, Ian M & Solow, Robert M, 1985. "Wages and Employment in a Segmented Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1115-41, November.
  7. Atkinson, A. B., 1997. "Measurement of Trends in Poverty and the Income Distribution," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 9712, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  8. George A. Akerlof, 1978. "A theory of social custom, of which unemployment may be one consequence," Special Studies Papers 118, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  9. Paul Krugman, 1994. "Past and prospective causes of high unemployment," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q IV, pages 23-43.
  10. A. B. Atkinson, 1999. "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011719, June.
  11. Poterba, James M., 1998. "The rate of return to corporate capital and factor shares: new estimates using revised national income accounts and capital stock data," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 211-246, June.
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