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Income Inequality and Poverty


  • Martin Feldstein


The first part of this paper argues that income inequality is not a problem in need of remedy. The common practice of interpreting a rise in the gini coefficient measure of inequality as a bad thing violates the Pareto principle and is equivalent to using a social welfare function that puts negative weight on increases in the income of high income individuals. The real distributional problem is not inequality but poverty. The paper considers three sources of poverty and asks what if anything might be done about each of them: unemployment; a low level of earning capacity; and individual choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Feldstein, 1998. "Income Inequality and Poverty," NBER Working Papers 6770, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6770
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H., 1994. "Monetary policy matters," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 75-88, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mary C. Daly & Daniel J. Wilson, 2006. "Keeping up with the Joneses and staying ahead of the Smiths: evidence from suicide data," Working Paper Series 2006-12, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    2. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
    3. Branko Milanovic, 2004. "Why we all do care about inequality (but are loath to admit it)," HEW 0404001, EconWPA.
    4. Daniel Suryadarma & Rima Prama Artha & Asep Suryahadi & Sudarno Sumarto, 2005. "A Reassessment of Inequality and Its Role in Poverty Reduction in Indonesia," Development Economics Working Papers 22543, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    5. Abdelkrim Araar & Awoyemi Taiwo, 2006. "Poverty and Inequality Nexus: Illustrations with Nigerian Data," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 28(15), pages 1.
    6. Garrett, Thomas A., 2010. "U.S. income inequality: it’s not so bad," Inside the Vault, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Spring.
    7. David Brady, 2003. "The Poverty of Liberal Economics," LIS Working papers 343, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    8. M. Dolores Collado & Iñigo Iturbe Ormaetxe, 2008. "Public Transfers to the Poor: Is Europe really more Generous than the United States?," Working Papers. Serie AD 2008-05, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
    9. Konstantinos D. Mavromatis, 2009. "Nonlinearities in the Real Exchange Rate and Monetary Policy: Interest Rate Rules Reconsidered," Working Papers 2009-4, Central Bank of Cyprus.
    10. J. G. Sri Ranjith, 2015. "The Effect of Microenterprises on Poverty: A Cross-county Analysis on US Urban Poverty," International Journal of Economics and Empirical Research (IJEER), The Economics and Social Development Organization (TESDO), vol. 3(3), pages 128-150, March.
    11. Alfonso Gambardella & David Ulph, 2002. "Technology, Entrepreneurship, And Inequality," LEM Papers Series 2002/06, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    12. Timothy Smeeding, 1999. "Unequal incomes, unequal outcomes? Economic inequality and measures of well-being, closing discussion: social policy implications, general commentary," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 175-177.
    13. Hopkins, Jeffrey W. & Morehart, Mitchell J., 2000. "Distributional Analysis Of U.S. Farm Household Income," 2000 Annual Meeting, June 29-July 1, 2000, Vancouver, British Columbia 36517, Western Agricultural Economics Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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