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Inequality and Redistribution: Evidence from U.S. Counties and States, 1890-1930

  • Rodney Ramcharan

    (International Monetary Fund)

Does economic inequality affect redistributive policy? This paper turns to U.S. county data on land inequality over the period 1890 to 1930 to help address this fundamental question in political economy. Redistributive policy was primarily decided at the local level during this period, making county-level data particularly informative. Examining within-state variation also reduces the potential impact of latent institutional and political variables. The paper also uses a variety of identification strategies, including historic variables as well as county weather and crop characteristics, as instruments for land inequality. The evidence consistently suggests that greater inequality is significantly associated with less redistribution. This negative relationship is especially large in heavily rural counties, where concentrated landownership implied that landed elites also controlled the majority of economic production. (c) 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 729-744

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:92:y:2010:i:4:p:729-744
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  8. Zeynep K. Hansen & Gary D. Libecap, 2003. "Small Farms, Externalities, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930's," NBER Working Papers 10055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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