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Inequality and Macroeconomic Performance

This paper argues that although the crisis may have emerged in the financial sector, its roots are much deeper and lie in a structural change in income distribution that has been going on for the past three decades. The widespread increase of inequality depressed aggregate demand and prompted monetary policy to react by maintaining a low level of interest rate which itself allowed private debt to increase beyond sustainable levels. On the other hand the search for high-return investment by those who benefited from the increase in inequalities led to the emergence of bubbles. Net wealth became overvalued, and high asset prices gave the false impression that high levels of debt were sustainable. The crisis revealed itself when the bubbles exploded, and net wealth returned to normal level. We further argue that how the trend of increasing inequality interacted differently with policies and institutions, to yield radically different outcomes in the US and in the large European Union countries before the onset of the crisis.

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Paper provided by Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE) in its series Documents de Travail de l'OFCE with number 2010-13.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:1013
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  1. Cynamon Barry Z. & Fazzari Steven M., 2008. "Household Debt in the Consumer Age: Source of Growth--Risk of Collapse," Capitalism and Society, De Gruyter, vol. 3(2), pages 1-32, October.
  2. Jean-Paul Fitoussi & Eloi Laurent, 2009. "Macroeconomic and social policies in the EU 15 : the last two decades," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2009-20, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  3. Ian Dew-Becker & Robert J. Gordon, 2005. "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income," NBER Working Papers 11842, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fitoussi Jean Paul & Saraceno Francesco, 2010. "Europe: How Deep Is a Crisis? Policy Responses and Structural Factors Behind Diverging Performances," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-19, January.
  5. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri & Luigi Pistaferri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Cross Sectional Facts for Macroeconomists," NBER Working Papers 15554, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Fitoussi, J-P & Jestaz, D. & Phelps, E.S. & Zoega, G., 2000. "Roots of the Recent Recoveries : Labor Reforms or Private-Sector Forces ?," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2000-04, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  7. Jerome Creel & Francesco Saraceno, 2008. "Automatic Stabilisation, Discretionary Policy and the Stability Pact," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2008-15, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  8. Ian Dew-Becker & Robert J. Gordon, 2005. "Where Did Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(2), pages 67-150.
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