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The Origins of Inequality, and Policies to Contain It


  • Joseph E. Stiglitz


This paper critiques the notion that unfettered inequality is an inevitable consequence of contemporary capitalism, and provides an alternative, new framework for analyzing changes in income and wealth distribution. By thinking of these distributions as the result of changing centrifugal and centripetal economic and political forces, we can identify changes in our economic and social structure that may have played a central role in the creation of today’s high level of inequality, and we can analyze the potential impacts of alternative policies. Specifically, I suggest that much of the increase in inequality is associated with the growth in rents — including land and exploitation rents (e.g., arising from monopoly power and political influence).

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2015. "The Origins of Inequality, and Policies to Contain It," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 68(2), pages 425-448, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:68:y:2015:i:2:p:425-448

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Name that Index! Land, Labor, or Capital?
      by Jason Barr in Skynomics Blog on 2018-02-20 13:10:33


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    Cited by:

    1. repec:jle:journl:173 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2017. "The coming great transformation," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 625-638.
    3. Harashima, Taiji, 2019. "Preventing Widening Inequality: Economic Rents and Sustainable Heterogeneity," MPRA Paper 95727, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Max Franks & David Klenert & Anselm Schultes & Kai Lessmann & Ottmar Edenhofer, 2018. "Is capital back? The role of land ownership and savings behavior," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 25(5), pages 1252-1276, October.
    5. Roy van der Weide & Ambar Narayan, 2019. "China and the United States: Different economic models but similarly low levels of socioeconomic mobility," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-121, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Kalkuhl, Matthias & Fernandez Milan, Blanca & Schwerhoff, Gregor & Jakob, Michael & Hahnen, Maren & Creutzig, Felix, 2017. "Fiscal Instruments for Sustainable Development: The Case of Land Taxes," MPRA Paper 78652, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Elena Deskoska & Jana Vlčková, 2018. "The Role of Technological Change in Income Inequality in the United States," Acta Oeconomica Pragensia, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2018(1), pages 47-66.
    8. Svilena MIHAYLOVA & Silviya BRATOEVA-MANOLEVA, 2018. "Structural changes and wage inequality in the Bulgarian economy," Eastern Journal of European Studies, Centre for European Studies, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, vol. 9, pages 205-227, December.
    9. Almas Heshmati & Jungsuk Kim & Jacob Wood, 2019. "A Survey of Inclusive Growth Policy," Economies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(3), pages 1-18, July.
    10. Alok Kumar Mishra & Prasanna Kumar Mohanty, 2018. "Urban infrastructure financing in India: applying the benefit and earmarking principles of taxation," Journal of Social and Economic Development, Springer;Institute for Social and Economic Change, vol. 20(1), pages 110-128, April.

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