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Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats? Welfare Consequences of Asymmetric Growth

  • Murphy, Daniel

    (University of Michigan)

A common presumption in macroeconomics and development economics is that increased growth in the aggregate enhances welfare for everyone in the economy. I show that instead, if the underlying growth is a productivity increase in the sector consumed primarily by one group, the welfare of a second group may fall. I demonstrate this effect in two cases. In the first case, skill-biased technological change in sectors consumed by the skilled rich increases their income beyond the increase in economic wealth, causing a decline in the consumption and welfare of the low-skilled poor. This result stands in contrast to the standard model of skillbiased technological change. The second case examines trade between two countries, and demonstrates circumstances under which an increase in productivity in the nontradable sector of one country causes a welfare decline for the other country. The paper discusses evidence in support of the effects in both cases. This analysis demonstrates that a rising tide need not lift all boats and that the precise nature of consumption patterns is important for welfare.

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File URL: http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/workingpapers/Papers626-650/r629.pdf
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Paper provided by Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan in its series Working Papers with number 629.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:629
Contact details of provider: Postal: ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN 48109
Web page: http://fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/

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  1. L. Rachel Ngai & Christopher A. Pissarides, 2007. "Structural Change in a Multisector Model of Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 429-443, March.
  2. Dale W. Jorgenson & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2000. "Raising the Speed Limit: U.S. Economic Growth in the Information Age," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(1), pages 125-236.
  3. Angrist, Joshua D, 1995. "The Economic Returns to Schooling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1065-87, December.
  4. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1999. "The Rise of Mass Consumption Societies," Discussion Papers 1289, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. Francisco J. Buera & Joseph P. Kaboski, 2012. "The Rise of the Service Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2540-69, October.
  6. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 1997. "Capital-skill complementarity and inequality: a macroeconomic analysis," Staff Report 239, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 1998. "Ability Biased Technological Transition, Wage Inequality, and Economic Growth," Working Papers 98-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Schuetz, Jenny & Kolko, Jed & Meltzer, Rachel, 2012. "Are poor neighborhoods “retail deserts”?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 269-285.
  9. Zweimüller, Josef, 1998. "Schumpeterian Entrepreneurs Meet Engel's Law: The Impact of Inequality on Innovation-Driven Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1880, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Naito, Hisahiro, 1999. "Re-examination of uniform commodity taxes under a non-linear income tax system and its implication for production efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 165-188, February.
  11. Daron Acemoglu & David Autor, 2010. "Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings," NBER Working Papers 16082, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1989. "Income Distribution, Market Size, and Industrialization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(3), pages 537-64, August.
  13. Krugman, Paul, 1987. "The narrow moving band, the Dutch disease, and the competitive consequences of Mrs. Thatcher : Notes on trade in the presence of dynamic scale economies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1-2), pages 41-55, October.
  14. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2003. "Wages and Employment in the United States and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 573-602, June.
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