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Finance and Inequality: Theory and Evidence

  • Asli Demirguc-Kunt
  • Ross Levine

This paper critically reviews the literature on finance and inequality, highlighting substantive gaps in the literature. Finance plays a crucial role in most theories of persistent inequality. Unsurprisingly, therefore, economic theory provides a rich set of predictions concerning both the impact of finance on inequality and about the relevant mechanisms. Although subject to ample qualifications, the bulk of empirical research suggests that improvements in financial contracts, markets, and intermediaries expand economic opportunities and reduce inequality. Yet, there is a shortage of theoretical and empirical research on the potentially enormous impact of formal financial sector policies, such as bank regulations and securities law, on persistent inequality. Furthermore, there is no conceptual framework for considering the joint and endogenous evolution of finance, inequality, and economic growth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15275.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Publication status: published as Asli Demirg��-Kunt & Ross Levine, 2009. "Finance and Inequality: Theory and Evidence," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 287-318, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15275
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