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Equilibrium Income Inequality among Identical Agents

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  • Freeman, Scott

Abstract

The paper offers a theory of income differences in which income inequality exists and persists despite identical tastes and talents. Teams of unskilled labor supervised by schooled managers produce goods with increasing returns to scale. Agents are assumed unable to borrow to fund the human capital investment needed to become managers. Despite ex ante identical agents, the model displays the following equilibrium phenomena: (1) risk-averse agents accept fair gambles, implying an unequal ex post distribution of unearned income; (2) agents agree to publicly subsidize education, although those receiving the subsidy have the highest material wealth; and (3) incomes and educational differences are perpetuated from generation to generation. Copyright 1996 by University of Chicago Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Freeman, Scott, 1996. "Equilibrium Income Inequality among Identical Agents," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1047-1064, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:104:y:1996:i:5:p:1047-64
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Douglas Holtz-Eakin & David Joulfaian & Harvey S. Rosen, 1993. "The Carnegie Conjecture: Some Empirical Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 413-435.
    2. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    3. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-867, June.
    4. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-298, April.
    5. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    6. Marshall, John M, 1984. "Gambles and the Shadow Price of Death," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(1), pages 73-86, March.
    7. Michael Waldman, 1984. "Worker Allocation, Hierarchies and the Wage Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 95-109.
    8. Ng Yew Kwang, 1965. "Why do People Buy Lottery Tickets? Choices Involving Risk and the Indivisibility of Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73, pages 530-530.
    9. Garratt, Rod & Marshall, John M, 1994. "Public Finance of Private Goods: The Case of College Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 566-582, June.
    10. Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Authority, Control, and the Distribution of Earnings," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 311-323, Autumn.
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