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Income distribution and the current account: a sectoral perspective

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  • Jan Behringer

    () (IMK and University of Wurzburg, Germany)

  • Till van Treeck

    () (University of Duisburg-Essen and IMK, Germany)

Abstract

We investigate whether changes in income distribution can explain current account developments in a sample of 20 countries for the period 1972-2007. We analyze the relationship between the personal and the functional income distribution in our sample, before disentangling their effects on the household and corporate financial balances and the current account. We find that rising (top-end) personal inequality leads to a decrease of the private household financial balance and the current account, controlling for standard current account determinants. Moreover, an increase in corporate net lending or, alternatively, a fall in the wage share leads to an increase in the current account, ceteris paribus. While we remain agnostic as to the underlying theoretical explanations of our findings, they are consistent with consumption externalities on the one hand and with incomplete piercing of the corporate veil or the underconsumptionist view on the other hand. We show that changes in personal and functional income distribution have contributed considerably to the widening of current account balances, and hence to the instability of the international economic system, prior to the global financial crisis starting in 2007.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2015-379
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    Keywords

    Income distribution; current account determinants; sectoral financial balances; global financial crisis.;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance

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