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Globalization and Inequality Past and Present

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  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

Abstract

The late 19th and the late 20th century shared more than simply globalization and convergence. Globalization also seems to have had the same impact on income distribution: in the late 19th century, inequality rose in rich countries and fell in poor countries; according to Adrian Wood, the same has been true of the late 20th century. Furthermore, while George Borjas and Wood think that globalization accounted for something like a third to a half of the rise in inequality in America and other OECD countries since the 1970s, the late 19th century evidence suggests at least the same, perhaps more. However, those modern economists who favor a rising inequality explanation coming from (unskilled)-labor-saving technological change will be pleased to hear that it probably accounted for more than a third of the rising inequality in the New World and for more than a half of the falling inequality in Europe. It also appears that the inequality trends which globalization produced prior to World War I were at least partly responsible for the interwar retreat from globalization. Will the world economy of the next century also retreat from its commitment to globalization because of its inequality side effects?

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1996. "Globalization and Inequality Past and Present," NBER Working Papers 5491, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5491
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    1. George J. Borjas, 1995. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 3-22, Spring.
    2. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "International Factor Price Differences: Leontief Was Right!," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 961-987, December.
    3. Greenwood, Michael J & McDowell, John M, 1986. "The Factor Market Consequences of U.S. Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 1738-1772, December.
    4. Gary Burtless, 1995. "International Trade and the Rise in Earnings Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 800-816, June.
    5. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    6. J. David Richardson, 1995. "Income Inequality and Trade: How to Think, What to Conclude," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 33-55, Summer.
    7. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
    8. Wright, Gavin, 1990. "The Origins of American Industrial Success, 1879-1940," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 651-668, September.
    9. Richard B. Freeman, 1994. "Working Under Different Rules," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free94-1.
    10. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman, 1992. "Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number borj92-1.
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