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Which Inequality? The Inequality of Endowments Versus the Inequality of Rewards

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Abstract

Society often allocates valuable resources - such as prestigious positions, salaries, or marriage partners - via tournament-like institutions. In such situations, inequality affects incentives to compete and hence has a direct effect on equilibrium choices and hence material outcomes. We introduce a new distinction between inequality in initial endowments (e.g. ability, inherited wealth) and inequality of what one can obtain as rewards (e.g. prestigious positions, money). We show that these two types of inequality have opposing effects on equilibrium behavior and wellbeing. Greater inequality of rewards tends to hurt most people - both the middle class and the poor, - who are forced into greater effort. In contrast, greater inequality of endowments tends to benefit the middle class. Thus, which type of inequality is considered hugely affects the correctness of our intuitions about the implications of inequality.

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  • Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2008. "Which Inequality? The Inequality of Endowments Versus the Inequality of Rewards," ESE Discussion Papers 185, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  • Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:185
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    Cited by:

    1. Ed Hopkins, 2012. "Job Market Signaling Of Relative Position, Or Becker Married To Spence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 290-322, April.
    2. Marjit, Sugata & Roy, Ranjan, 2010. "Conflicting Measures of Poverty and Inadequate Saving by the Poor – The Role of Status Driven Utility Function," MPRA Paper 27472, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. V. Bhaskar & Ed Hopkins, 2016. "Marriage as a Rat Race: Noisy Premarital Investments with Assortative Matching," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(4), pages 992-1045.
    4. Marjit, Sugata & Mandal, Biswajit, 2011. "Conspicuous Consumption, Social Status and Measures of Poverty – An Example," MPRA Paper 33745, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Apr 2011.
    5. Hopkins, Ed, 2011. "Inequality and Risk-Taking Behaviour," SIRE Discussion Papers 2011-29, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    6. Fafchamps, Marcel & Kebede, Bereket & Zizzo, Daniel John, 2015. "Keep up with the winners: Experimental evidence on risk taking, asset integration, and peer effects," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 59-79.
    7. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People's Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 16800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Hopkins, Ed & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2009. "Status, affluence, and inequality: Rank-based comparisons in games of status," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 552-568, November.
    9. Marjit, Sugata, 2012. "Conflicting Measures of Poverty and Inadequate Saving by the Poor," WIDER Working Paper Series 058, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. Bilancini, Ennio & Boncinelli, Leonardo, 2012. "Redistribution and the notion of social status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 651-657.
    11. Lam, W., 2015. "Status in Organizations," CORE Discussion Papers 2015033, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    12. Sugata Marjit & Sattwik Santra & Koushik Kumar Hati, 2014. "Does inequality affect the consumption patterns of the poor? – The role of status seeking behaviour," Discussion Papers Series 514, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    13. Marjit, Sugata & Santra, Sattwik & Hati, Koushik Kumar, 2014. "Does inequality affect the consumption patterns of the poor? – The role of “status seeking” behaviour," MPRA Paper 54118, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Sugata Marjit & Lei Yang, 2015. "Accumulation with Malnutrition - The Role of Status Seeking Behavior," Discussion Papers Series 544, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    15. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Nikiforakis, Nikos & Noussair, Charles N. & Wilkening, Tom, 2012. "Normative conflict and feuds: The limits of self-enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 797-807.
    17. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2006. "Methods of Comparison in Games of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 138, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
    18. Chang, Simon & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2012. "The Economic Consequences of Excess Men: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan:," IFPRI discussion papers 1203, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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    Keywords

    inequality; endowments; rewards; relative position; ordinal rank; games; tournaments; dispersive order; star order;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution

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