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On the inefficiency of inequality

  • Schiff, Maurice

A number of studies have examined the implications of preference interdependence. This paper models individual utility as depending either on the level of other people's consumption or on the difference in consumption levels. It assumes that the impact of an increase in other people's consumption on individual utility diminishes with the level of consumption, raising individual utility when that consumption is very small and lowering it when that consumption is very large. Based on that plausible assumption, the paper shows that, whether individual utility depends on the level of other people's consumption or on the difference in consumption levels, i) welfare declines with inequality, ii) equilibrium inequality is inefficient, and iii) the optimal intervention leads to a more equal distribution. Implications for the role of development institutions are examined.

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File URL: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2004/07/30/000009486_20040730105306/Rendered/PDF/wps3360ineffiency.pdf
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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3360.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3360
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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 2013. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Working Papers 2013-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  3. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1994. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," CRSP working papers 412, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  4. Harald Uhlig & Lars Ljungqvist, 2000. "Tax Policy and Aggregate Demand Management under Catching Up with the Joneses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 356-366, June.
  5. Bénabou, Roland, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1450, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Andrew B. Abel, . "Asset Prices Under Habit Formation and Catching Up With the Jones," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 1-90, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  7. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
  8. Schiff, Maurice, 2002. "Love thy neighbor: trade, migration, and social capital," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 87-107, March.
  9. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  10. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1991. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 211-235.
  11. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
  12. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
  13. Pollak, Robert A, 1976. "Interdependent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(3), pages 309-20, June.
  14. John Y. Campbell & John Cochrane, 1999. "Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 205-251, April.
  15. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  16. Bill Dupor & Wen-Fang Liu, 2003. "Jealousy and Equilibrium Overconsumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 423-428, March.
  17. Baland, J-M & Platteau, J-P, 1997. "Wealth Inequality and Efficiency in the Commons," Papers 193, Notre-Dame de la Paix, Sciences Economiques et Sociales.
  18. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Jeff Dayton-Johnson and Pranab Bardhan., 1996. "Inequality and Conservation on the Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C96-071, University of California at Berkeley.
  20. Barro, Robert J, 2000. "Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
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