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Growth, Income Distribution, and Poverty: A Review

  • Bigsten, Arne
  • Levin, Jorgen

This paper reviews the recent literature dealing with the relationships between economic growth, income distribution, and poverty. This generally fails to find any systematic pattern of change in income distribution during recent decades. Neither does it find any systematic link from fast growth to increasing inequality. Some recent empirical evidence has tended to confirm the negative impact of inequality on growth, on the other hand. Others have found that the level of initial income inequality is not a robust explanatory factor of growth, though high inequality in the distribution of assets, such as land, has a significantly negative effect on growth. Possible channels are credit rationing, reduced possibilities for participation in the political process, and social conflicts. Among the strategic elements that contributed to reduced poverty are: an outward-oriented strategy of export-led growth, based on labour-intensive manufacturing; agricultural and rural development, with encouragement of new technologies; investment in physical infrastructure and human capital; efficient institutions that provide the right set of incentives to farmers and entrepreneurs; and social policies to promote health, education, and social capital, as well as safety nets to protect the poor. Countries that have been successful in terms of economic growth are also very likely to be successful in reducing poverty. Poverty can be reduced if there is sufficient economic growth. Growth can be substantial if the policy and institutional environment is right.

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Paper provided by World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) in its series Working Paper Series with number UNU-WIDER Research Paper DP2001/129.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:dp2001-129
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