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The Effect of Inequality on Growth: Theory and Evidence from the Indian States


  • Sugata Ghosh
  • Sarmistha Pal


The paper examines the effect of inequality on growth among the subnational states in India. Theoretically, growth of the regional economy is driven by productive public investment in the provision of health and education services financed by a linear output tax, and the optimum tax rate is determined by the median voter. In contrast to existing results, the authors obtain an ambiguous relationship between initial inequality and subsequent economic growth. Analysis of the Indian state-level data suggests that rural inequality influences growth of total output more than urban inequality, and does so negatively. The indicator of intersectoral inequality is more important in explaining sectoral output growth. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004.

Suggested Citation

  • Sugata Ghosh & Sarmistha Pal, 2004. "The Effect of Inequality on Growth: Theory and Evidence from the Indian States," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(1), pages 164-177, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:rdevec:v:8:y:2004:i:1:p:164-177

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
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    5. 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.
    6. Ravallion, Martin, 1998. "Does aggregation hide the harmful effects of inequality on growth?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 73-77, October.
    7. Ravallion, Martin, 1995. "Growth and poverty: Evidence for developing countries in the 1980s," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 48(3-4), pages 411-417, June.
    8. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav, 1996. "How Important to India's Poor Is the Sectoral Composition of Economic Growth?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(1), pages 1-25, January.
    9. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    10. Paul Cashin & Ratna Sahay, 1996. "Internal Migration, Center-State Grants, and Economic Growth in the States of India," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 43(1), pages 123-171, March.
    11. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
    12. Partridge, Mark D, 1997. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1019-1032, December.
    13. Nazrul Islam, 1995. "Growth Empirics: A Panel Data Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1127-1170.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sarmistha Pal & Robert Palacios, 2006. "Old Age Poverty In The Indian States: What Do The Household Data Tell Us?," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 06-08, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
    2. Andrew McKay & Sarmistha Pal, 2003. "Relationships between consumption and inequality in the Indian states," Development and Comp Systems 0309005, EconWPA.
    3. Sarmistha Pal & Sugata Ghosh, 2006. "Elite Dominance and Under-investment in Mass Education: Disparity in the Social Development of the Indian States, 1960-92," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 06-05, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
    4. Pal, Sarmistha & Ghosh, Sugata, 2008. "The Elite and the Marginalised: An Analysis of Public Spending on Mass Education in the Indian States," IZA Discussion Papers 3707, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Sarmistha Pal & Robert Palacios, 2011. "Understanding Poverty among the Elderly in India: Implications for Social Pension Policy," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(7), pages 1017-1037.
    6. Andrew McKay & Sarmistha Pal, 2004. "Relationships between Household Consumption and Inequality in the Indian States," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(5), pages 65-90.
    7. Dominguez Martin, Rafael & Guijarro Garvi, Marta, 2009. "Gender Inequality and Economic Growth in Spain: An Exploratory Analysis," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 39(1), pages 23-48.
    8. Sarmistha Pal & Robert Palacios, 2005. "Old Age Poverty In The Indian States: What The Household Data Can Say?," Labor and Demography 0505015, EconWPA.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H54 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Infrastructures
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East


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