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Inequality and Economic Growth: Do Natural Resources Matter?

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  • Thorvaldur Gylfason
  • Gylfi Zoega

Abstract

This paper is intended to demonstrate, in theory as well as empirically, how increased dependence on natural resources tends to go along with less rapid economic growth and greater inequality in the distribution of income across countries. On the other hand, public policy in support of education can simultaneously enhance equality and growth by raising the return to working in higher technology (that is, nonprimary) industries and thus counter some of the potentially adverse effects of excessive natural resource dependence. Together, these two variables − natural resources and education − can help account for the inverse relationship between inequality and growth observed in cross-country data. Moreover, the analysis highlights the role of public revenue policy. Taxes and fees can be used to reduce the attractiveness of primary-sector employment, lift the marginal productivity of capital in higher technology industries and thus increase the rate of interest and economic growth, while reducing the inequality of income and wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Thorvaldur Gylfason & Gylfi Zoega, 2002. "Inequality and Economic Growth: Do Natural Resources Matter?," CESifo Working Paper Series 712, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_712
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/712.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality and the Process of Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1001-1026.
    2. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    3. Saint-Paul, Gilles & Verdier, Thierry, 1993. "Education, democracy and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 399-407, December.
    4. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    5. Garcia-Penalosa, Cecilia, 1995. "The Paradox of Education or the Good Side of Inequality," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 265-285, April.
    6. Perotti, Roberto, 1996. "Growth, Income Distribution, and Democracy: What the Data Say," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 149-187, June.
    7. Paul, Gilles Saint & Verdier, Thierry, 1996. "Inequality, redistribution and growth: A challenge to the conventional political economy approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 719-728, April.
    8. Gylfason, Thorvaldur, 2001. "Natural resources, education, and economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 847-859, May.
    9. Gylfason, Thorvaldur & Herbertsson, Tryggvi Thor & Zoega, Gylfi, 1998. "Ownership and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1900, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
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