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The Changing Distribution of Income: Evidence and Explanations

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  • Anthony B. Atkinson

Abstract

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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  • Anthony B. Atkinson, 2000. "The Changing Distribution of Income: Evidence and Explanations," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(1), pages 3-18, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:germec:v:1:y:2000:i:1:p:3-18
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Burgess, Simon & Lane, Julia & Stevens, David, 1997. "Jobs, Workers and Changes in Earnings Dispersion," CEPR Discussion Papers 1714, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. 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.
    3. Atkinson, A B, 1997. "Bringing Income Distribution in from the Cold," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 297-321, March.
    4. George A. Akerlof, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of which Unemployment may be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-775.
    5. Ian M. McDonald & Robert M. Solow, 1985. "Wages and Employment in a Segmented Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1115-1141.
    6. Paul R. Krugman, 1994. "Past and prospective causes of high unemployment," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Jan, pages 49-98.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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, January.
    10. 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.
    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, pages 211-246.
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