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Rising Inequality as a Root Cause of the Present Crisis

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  • Engelbert Stockhammer

Abstract

The paper argues that the economic imbalances that caused the present crisis should be thought of as the outcome of the interaction of the effects of financial deregulation with the macroeconomic effects of rising inequality. In this sense rising inequality should be regarded as a root cause of the present crisis. We identify four channels by which it has contributed to the crisis. First, rising inequality creates a downward pressure on aggregate demand since it is poorer income groups that have high marginal propensities to consume. Second, international financial deregulation has allowed countries to run larger current account deficits and for longer time periods. Thus, in reaction to potentially stagnant demand two growth models have emerged: a debt-led model and an export-led model. Third, (in the debt-led growth models) higher inequality has led to higher household debt as working class families have tried to keep up with social consumption norms despite stagnating or falling real wages. Fourth, rising inequality has increased the propensity to speculate as richer households tend hold riskier financial assets than other groups. The rise of hedge funds and of subprime derivatives in particular has been linked to rise of the superrich.

Suggested Citation

  • Engelbert Stockhammer, 2012. "Rising Inequality as a Root Cause of the Present Crisis," Working Papers wp282, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp282
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    File URL: https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_251-300/WP282.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carmen Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2009. "Capital Flow Bonanzas: An Encompassing View of the Past and Present," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2008, pages 9-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Harrison, Ann, 2005. "Has Globalization Eroded Labor’s Share? Some Cross-Country Evidence," MPRA Paper 39649, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Eckhard Hein & Lena Vogel, 2007. "Distribution and growth reconsidered - empirical results for Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA," IMK Working Paper 03-2007, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    4. Eckhard Hein & Lena Vogel, 2008. "Distribution and growth reconsidered: empirical results for six OECD countries," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(3), pages 479-511, May.
    5. Gustav Horn & Simon Sturn & Till Treeck, 2010. "Die Debatte um die deutsche Exportorientierung," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;German National Library of Economics, vol. 90(1), pages 22-28, January.
    6. repec:ilo:ilowps:470932 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Obama, Abe, Roosevelt: ecco perché aumentare i salari combatte la recessione
      by keynesblog in Keynes Blog on 2014-02-14 20:49:01

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Goda, 2013. "The role of income inequality in crisis theories and in the subprime crisis," Working Papers PKWP1305, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group (PKSG).
    2. Till Treeck, 2014. "Did Inequality Cause The U.S. Financial Crisis?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(3), pages 421-448, July.
    3. Russo, Alberto & Riccetti, Luca & Gallegati, Mauro, 2013. "Increasing Inequality and Financial Fragility in an An Agent Based Macroeconomic Model," MPRA Paper 51528, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Engelbert Stockhammer & Ozlem Onaran, 2013. "Wage-led growth: theory, evidence, policy," Review of Keynesian Economics, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 61-78, January.
    5. Jo Michell, 2014. "Factors generating and transmitting the financial crisis; Functional distribution of income," Working papers wpaper41, Financialisation, Economy, Society & Sustainable Development (FESSUD) Project.
    6. Karolin Kirschenmann & Tuomas Malinen & Henri Nyberg, 2014. "The risk of financial crises: Is it in real or financial factors?," Working Papers 336, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    7. Mario Holzner, 2013. "Inequality and the Crisis: A Causal Inference Analysis," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 110, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    8. Thomas Goda, 2013. "Changes in income inequality from a global perspective: An overview," Working Papers PKWP1303, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group (PKSG).
    9. G. Bellettini & F. Delbono, 2013. "Persistence of high income inequality and banking crises: 1980-2010," Working Papers wp885, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    10. Danilo Šuković, 2014. "Did Economic Inequality Cause the Economic Crisis," Panoeconomicus, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, vol. 61(3), pages 369-387, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    crisis; distribution; inequality; effective demand; growth regimes; post-Keynesian economics;

    JEL classification:

    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General

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