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The World Income Distribution

  • Acemoglu, Daron
  • Ventura, Jaume

We show that even in the absence of diminishing returns in production and technological spillovers, international trade leads to a stable world income distribution. This is because specialization and trade introduce de facto diminishing returns – countries that accumulate capital faster than average experience declining export prices, depressing the rate of return to capital and discouraging further accumulation. Because of diminishing returns to capital accumulation at the country level, the cross-sectional behaviour of the world economy is similar to that of existing exogenous growth models. Cross-country variation in economic policies, savings and technology translate into cross-country variation in incomes, and country dynamics exhibit conditional convergence as in the Solow-Ramsey model. The dispersion of the world income distribution is determined by the forces that shape the strength of the terms of trade effects – the degree of openness to international trade and the extent of specialization. Finally, we provide evidence that countries accumulating faster experience a worsening in their terms of trade. Our estimates imply that, all else equal, a 1% faster growth is associated with approximately a 0.7% decline in the terms of trade.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2973.

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Date of creation: Sep 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2973
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  1. Hummels, D. & Levinsohn, J., 1993. "Monopolistic Competition and International Trade: Reconsidering the Evidence," Working Papers 339, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  2. Irving B. Kravis & Robert E. Lipsey, 1982. "Towards an Explanation of National Price Levels," NBER Working Papers 1034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Charles I. Jones, . "On the Evolution of the World Income Distribution," Working Papers 97009, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  4. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1995. "The Growth of Nations," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1732, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. Robert J. Barro, 1996. "Determinants of Economic Growth: A Cross-Country Empirical Study," NBER Working Papers 5698, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  7. Acemoglu, Daron & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2000. "Productivity Differences," CEPR Discussion Papers 2498, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Elhanan Helpman & David T. Coe, 1993. "International RandD Spillovers," IMF Working Papers 93/84, International Monetary Fund.
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