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Group Inequality

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  • Samuel Bowles
  • Glenn C. Loury
  • Rajiv Sethi

Abstract

We explore the combined effect of segregation in social networks, peer effects, and the relative size of a historically disadvantaged group on the incentives to invest in market-rewarded skills and the dynamics of inequality between social groups. We identify conditions under which group inequality will persist in the absence of differences in ability, credit constraints, or labor market discrimination. Under these conditions, group inequality may be amplified even if initial group differences are negligible. Increases in social integration may destabilize an unequal state and make group equality possible, but the distributional and human capital effects of this depend on the demographic composition of the population. When the size of the initially disadvantaged group is sufficiently small, integration can lower the long-run costs of human capital investment in both groups and result in an increase the aggregate skill share. In contrast, when the initially disadvantaged group is large, integration can induce a fall in the aggregate skill share as the costs of human capital investment rise in both groups. We consider applications to concrete cases and policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles & Glenn C. Loury & Rajiv Sethi, 2014. "Group Inequality," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 129-152, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:12:y:2014:i:1:p:129-152
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/jeea.12037
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    Cited by:

    1. Kappius, Robert, 2011. "Equal opportunity in educational contexts: Comparing the feasibility of divergent conceptualizations," The Constitutional Economics Network Working Papers 02-2011, University of Freiburg, Department of Economic Policy and Constitutional Economic Theory.
    2. Rohini Somanathan, 2016. "Group Inequality in Democracies: Lessons from Cross-national Experiences," Working papers 260, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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