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

  • Hopkins, Ed
  • Kornienko, Tatiana

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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Paper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2008-13.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:26
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  1. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
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  3. Harold L. Cole & George J. Mailath & Andrew Postlewaite, . "Class Systems and the Enforcement of Social Norms," CARESS Working Papres 97-3, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  4. Andrew Postlewaite, . "The Social Basis of Interdependent Preferences," Penn CARESS Working Papers 6bd000503382ae2f0b90d25e3, Penn Economics Department.
  5. James Konow, 2003. "Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1188-1239, December.
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  7. Wing Suen, 2005. "The Comparative Statics of Differential Rents in Two-Sided Matching Markets," Departmental Working Papers _172, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  8. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Robert Frank, 2000. "Does Growing Inequality Harm the Middle Class?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 253-264, Summer.
  11. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
  12. Moldovanu, Benny & Sela, Aner, 2006. "Contest architecture," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 126(1), pages 70-96, January.
  13. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
  14. 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, 04.
  15. Angus Deaton, 2002. "Health, inequality, and economic development," Working Papers 209, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
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  17. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, Happiness and Relative Concerns: What Actually is their Relationship?," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001896, UCLA Department of Economics.
  18. Andrew Schotter & Keith Weigelt, 1992. "Asymmetric Tournaments, Equal Opportunity Laws, and Affirmative Action: Some Experimental Results," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 511-539.
  19. Mailath, George J, 1987. "Incentive Compatibility in Signaling Games with a Continuum of Types," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(6), pages 1349-65, November.
  20. Brown, Gordon D. A. & Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J. & Qian, Jing, 2005. "Does Wage Rank Affect Employees' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 1505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  21. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Ivan Werning, 2005. "The Equilibrium Distribution of Income and the Market for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 282-310, April.
  22. Raquel Fernández & Jordi Gali, 1999. "To Each According to …? Markets, Tournaments, and the Matching Problem with Borrowing Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 799-824.
  23. Phelps Brown, Henry, 1988. "Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286486, December.
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