Why progressive redistribution can hurt the poor
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.
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