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Finance and inequality : theory and evidence

  • Demirguc-Kunt, Asli
  • Levine, Ross

This paper critically reviews the literature on finance and inequality, highlighting substantive gaps in the literature. Finance plays a crucial role in most theories of persistent inequality. Unsurprisingly, therefore, economic theory provides a rich set of predictions concerning both the impact of finance on inequality and about the relevant mechanisms. Although subject to ample qualifications, the bulk of empirical research suggests that improvements in financial contracts, markets, and intermediaries expand economic opportunities and reduce inequality. Yet, there is a shortage of theoretical and empirical research on the potentially enormous impact of formal financial sector policies, such as bank regulations and securities law, on persistent inequality. Furthermore, there is no conceptual framework for considering the joint and endogenous evolution of finance, inequality, and economic growth.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4967.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2009
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4967
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