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Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?

  • Abhijit V. Banerjee
  • Esther Duflo

This paper describes the correlations between inequality and the growth rates in cross-country data. Using non-parametric methods, we show that the growth rate is an inverted U-shaped function of net changes in inequality: Changes in inequality (in any direction) are associated with reduced growth in the next period. The estimated relationship is robust to variations in control variables and estimation methods. This inverted U-curve is consistent with a simple political economy model, although, as we point out, efforts to interpret this model causally run into difficult identification problems. We show that this non-linearity is sufficient to explain why previous estimates of the relationship between the level of inequality and growth are so different from one another.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7793.

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Date of creation: Jul 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Esther Duflo. "Inequality And Growth: What Can The Data Say?," Journal of Economic Growth, 2003, v8(3,Sep), 267-299.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7793
Note: EFG
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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 1994. "Was Prometheus unbound by chance? Risk, diversification and growth," Economics Working Papers 98, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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  3. Abhijit Banerjee & Dilip Mookherjee & Kaivan Munshi & Debraj Ray, 2001. "Inequality, Control Rights, and Rent Seeking: Sugar Cooperatives in Maharashtra," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 138-190, February.
  4. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1990. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Discussion Papers 911, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  7. Hausman, Jerry A & Newey, Whitney K, 1995. "Nonparametric Estimation of Exact Consumers Surplus and Deadweight Loss," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1445-76, November.
  8. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52, January.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1993. "Income Distribution, Political Instability, and Investment," NBER Working Papers 4486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  11. Benhabib, Jess & Spiegel, Mark, 1997. "Cross-Country Growth Regressions," Working Papers 97-20, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  12. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 1991. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth? Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 3599, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. T. N. Srinivasan, 1994. "Destitution: A Discourse," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1842-1855, December.
  14. Arellano, Manuel & Bond, Stephen, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 277-97, April.
  15. Piketty, Thomas, 1997. "The Dynamics of the Wealth Distribution and the Interest Rate with Credit Rationing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 173-89, April.
  16. Dasgupta, Partha & Ray, Debraj, 1986. "Inequality as a Determinant of Malnutrition and Unemployment: Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(384), pages 1011-34, December.
  17. Barro, Robert J, 2000. " Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
  18. Perotti, Roberto & Alesina, Alberto, 1996. "Income Distribution, Political Instability, and Investment," Scholarly Articles 4553018, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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