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A Theory of Trickle-Down Growth and Development


  • Philippe Aghion
  • Patrick Bolton


This paper develops a model of growth and income inequalities in the presence of imperfect capital markets, and it analyses the trickle-down effect of capital accumulation. Moral hazard with limited wealth constraints on the part of the borrowers is the source of both capital market imperfections and the emergence of persistent income inequalities. Three main conclusions are obtained from this model. First, when the rate of capital accumulation is sufficiently high, the economy converges to a unique invariant wealth distribution. Second, even though the trickle-down mechanism can lead to a unique steady-state distribution under laissez-faire, there is room for government intervention: in particular, redistribution of wealth from rich lenders to poor and middle-class borrowers improves the production efficiency of the economy both because it brings about greater equality of opportunity and also because it accelerates the trickle-down process. Third, the process of capital accumulation initially has the effect of widening inequalities but in later stages it reduces them: in other words, this model can generate a Kuznets curve.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton, 1997. "A Theory of Trickle-Down Growth and Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 151-172.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:64:y:1997:i:2:p:151-172.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Card, David & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Wage dispersion, returns to skill, and black-white wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 319-361, October.
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    5. Goldin, Claudia, 1986. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: A Historical Analysis," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 1-27, January.
    6. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-445, March.
    7. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics,in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
    8. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
    9. Chamberlain, Gary, 1982. "Multivariate regression models for panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 5-46, January.
    10. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
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