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Inequality And Group Participation: Theory And Evidence From Rural Tanzania

  • La Ferrara, Eliana

This paper investigates the determinants of group membership, and in particular the effect of income inequality on individual incentives to join economic groups. Drawing on a simple model, we show that an increase in inequality has an ambiguous effect and that the type of access rule (open versus restricted access) is key in determining what income categories are represented in the group. Furthermore, the shape of the income distribution can be crucial to determine whether increased inequality leads to more or less group participation. Using survey data from rural Tanzania we find that inequality at the village level has a negative impact on the likelihood that the respondents are members of any group. This effect is particularly significant for relatively wealthier people, both when relative wealth is 'objectively' measured, and when it is 'subjectively' defined. However, when we disaggregate groups by type of access rule, we find that inequality decreases participation in open access groups when there are wide disparities at the bottom of the distribution, while it increases participation in restricted access groups when the disparities are around the middle and top part of the distribution. Finally, we assess the impact of inequality on various dimensions of group functioning.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2433.

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Date of creation: Apr 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2433
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  1. Epple, Dennis & Romer, Thomas, 1991. "Mobility and Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 828-58, August.
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  4. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2000. "Participation In Heterogeneous Communities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 847-904, August.
  5. Pranab Bardhan & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2000. "Inequality, Market Imperfections, and Collective Action Problems," Public Economics 0004001, EconWPA.
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  10. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
  11. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
  12. Baland, Jean-Marie & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 1997. "Wealth Inequality and Efficiency in the Commons: Part I: The Unregulated Case," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(4), pages 451-82, October.
  13. DiPasquale, Denise & Glaeser, Edward L., 1999. "Incentives and Social Capital: Are Homeowners Better Citizens?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 354-384, March.
  14. Eliana La Ferrara, . "Ethnicity and Reciprocity: A model of Credit Transactions in Ghana," Working Papers 193, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  15. Fernandez, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1996. "Income Distribution, Communities, and the Quality of Public Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 135-64, February.
  16. Gaspart, Frederic, et al, 1998. "Participation in the Construction of a Local Public Good with Indivisibilities: An Application to Watershed Development in Ethiopia," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 7(2), pages 157-84, July.
  17. Isham, Jonathan & Narayan, Deepa & Pritchett, Lant, 1995. "Does Participation Improve Performance? Establishing Causality with Subjective Data," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 9(2), pages 175-200, May.
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  19. Jehiel, Philippe & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 2001. "Constitutional Rules of Exclusion in Jurisdiction Formation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 393-413, April.
  20. La Ferrara, Eliana & Alesina, Alberto, 2000. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," Scholarly Articles 4551796, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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