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Income inequality and Germany’s current account surplus

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  • Patrick Grüning
  • Thomas Theobald
  • Till van Treeck

Abstract

Germany entered the euro with a current account deficit but over the entire past decade has run large and persistent current account surpluses. Besides joining the common currency, the increase of Germany’s current account since the late 1990s has been accompanied by strong shifts in the personal and, in particular, the functional income distribution. In this paper, we argue that income inequality should always be analyzed with respect to both the personal and the functional distribution of income. We present a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model in which a current account surplus arises as an endogenous result of a decrease in the share of household income in national income. On the one hand, this result complements existing literature where current account deficits result from rising personal income inequality. On the other hand, we find that current account imbalances will be more pronounced when accompanied by changes in the financial system. Accordingly, if we link Germany’s accession to the European monetary union to lower exchange rate costs for German bank lending, the current account surplus becomes larger.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Grüning & Thomas Theobald & Till van Treeck, 2015. "Income inequality and Germany’s current account surplus," IMK Working Paper 147-2015, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:imk:wpaper:147-2015
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:ilo:ilowps:470934 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2014. "Austerity, Growth and Inflation: Remarks on the Eurozone's Unresolved Competitiveness Problem," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 1-13, January.
    3. Christian A Belabed & Thomas Theobald & Till van Treeck, 2018. "Income distribution and current account imbalances," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(1), pages 47-94.
    4. Jan Behringer & Till van Treeck, 2013. "Income distribution and current account: A sectoral perspective," IMK Working Paper 125-2013, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    5. Michael Kumhof & Romain Rancière & Pablo Winant, 2015. "Inequality, Leverage, and Crises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1217-1245, March.
    6. van Treeck, Till. & Sturn, Simon., 2012. "Income inequality as a cause of the Great Recession? : A survey of current debates," ILO Working Papers 994709343402676, International Labour Organization.
    7. Jan Behringer & Thomas Theobald & Till van Treeck, 2014. "Income and Wealth Distributionin Germany: A Macro-Economic Perspective," IMK Report 99e-2014, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    8. Fabian Lindner, 2013. "Banken treiben Eurokrise," IMK Report 82-2013, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    9. Fabian Lindner, 2014. "Privater Investitionsstau in Deutschland?," IMK Report 96-2014, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    10. Romain Ranciere & Nathaniel A. Throckmorton & Michael Kumhof & Claire Lebarz & Alexander W. Richter, 2012. "Income Inequality and Current Account Imbalances," IMF Working Papers 12/8, International Monetary Fund.
    11. Michael Sumner, 2004. "Corporate Retentions and Consumers' Expenditure," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 72(1), pages 119-130, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Philipp Poppitz, 2016. "Does self-perceptions and income inequality match?," IMK Working Paper 173-2016, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    2. Prante, Franz J., 2017. "Macroeconomic effects of personal and functional income inequality: Theory and empirical evidence for the US and Germany," IPE Working Papers 83/2017, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
    3. Jan Behringer & Till van Treeck, 2015. "Income distribution and the current account: a sectoral perspective," Working Papers 379, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    income inequality; functional income distribution; household debt; financial system; current account;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E17 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements

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