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Why progressive redistribution can hurt the poor

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  • Foellmi, Reto
  • Oechslin, Manuel

Abstract

Recent macroeconomic research discusses credit market imperfections as a key channel through which inequality retards growth: With convex technologies, progressive transfers increase aggregate output because marginal returns become more equalized across investment opportunities. We argue that this reasoning may not hold in general equilibrium. Since the investment functions are concave in wealth, reducing inequality increases capital demand and the interest rate. Hence, through the impact on capital costs, shifting wealth from the rich to the middle class depletes the poorest investors' access to credit. But because the poor face the highest marginal returns, the net effect on output may be negative. We find, however, that redistributing towards the bottom-end of the distribution has a clear positive impact. Finally, we discuss the implications of our theoretical findings for future empirical research.

Suggested Citation

  • Foellmi, Reto & Oechslin, Manuel, 2008. "Why progressive redistribution can hurt the poor," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 738-747, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:3-4:p:738-747
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    Cited by:

    1. Foellmi, Reto & Oechslin, Manuel, 2010. "Market imperfections, wealth inequality, and the distribution of trade gains," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 15-25, May.
    2. Daniel Halter & Manuel Oechslin & Josef Zweimüller, 2014. "Inequality and growth: the neglected time dimension," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 81-104, March.
    3. Loayza, Norman & Rigolini, Jamele & Llorente, Gonzalo, 2012. "Do middle classes bring institutional reforms ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6015, The World Bank.
    4. Halter, David & Oechslin, Manuel, 2010. "Inequality and Growth: The Neglected Time Dimension," CEPR Discussion Papers 8033, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Loayza, Norman & Rigolini, Jamele & Llorente, Gonzalo, 2012. "Do middle classes bring about institutional reforms?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(3), pages 440-444.

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