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Digital Innovation and the Distribution of Income

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  • Dominique Guellec
  • Caroline Paunov

Abstract

Income inequalities have increased in most OECD countries over the past decades; particularly the income share of the top 1%. In this paper we argue that the growing importance of digital innovation – new products and processes based on software code and data – has increased market rents, which benefit disproportionately the top income groups. In line with Schumpeter’s vision, digital innovation gives rise to ”winner-take-all” market structures, characterized by higher market power and risk than was the case in the previous economy of tangible products. The cause for these new market structures is digital non-rivalry, which allows for massive economies of scale and reduces costs of innovation. The latter stimulates higher rates of creative destruction, leading to higher risk as only marginally superior products can take over the entire market, hence rendering market shares unstable. Instability commands risk premia for investors. Market rents accrue mainly to investors and top managers and less to the average workers, hence increasing income inequality. Market rents are needed to incentivize innovation and compensate for its costs, but beyond a certain level they become detrimental. Public policy may stimulate innovation by reducing ex ante the market conditions which favor rent extraction from anti-competitive practices.

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  • Dominique Guellec & Caroline Paunov, 2017. "Digital Innovation and the Distribution of Income," NBER Working Papers 23987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23987
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    Cited by:

    1. Astrid Marinoni & John Voorheis, 2019. "Who Gains from Creative Destruction? Evidence from High-Quality Entrepreneurship in the United States," Working Papers 19-29, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    2. Pierce O’Reilly, 2018. "Tax policies for inclusive growth in a changing world," OECD Taxation Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
    3. Dr. Cesar R Salas-Guerra, 2021. "Impact of digital economic activity on regional economic growth: A Case study from northern Minas Gerais between 2009 To 2018," Papers 2105.02849, arXiv.org.
    4. Luigi Marengo, 2019. "Is this time different? A note on automation and labour in the fourth industrial revolution," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 46(3), pages 323-331, September.
    5. Kosior, Katarzyna, 2020. "Economic, Ethical and Legal Aspectsof Digitalization in The Agri-Food Sector," Problems of Agricultural Economics / Zagadnienia Ekonomiki Rolnej 311227, Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics - National Research Institute (IAFE-NRI).
    6. Victor M. Bennett & Todd A. Hall, 2020. "Software availability and entry," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(5), pages 950-962, May.
    7. Amrita Saha & Tommaso Ciarli, 2018. "Innovation, Structural Change, and Inclusion. A Cross Country PVAR Analysis," SPRU Working Paper Series 2018-01, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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