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Outcomes, opportunity and development : why unequal opportunities and not outcomes hinder economic development

  • Molina, Ezequiel
  • Narayan, Ambar
  • Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime

This paper studies the relationship between inequality of opportunity and development outcomes in a cross-country setting. Scholars have long debated the impact of inequality on growth, development, and the quality of institutions in a society. The empirical relationships are however confounded by the notion that"inequality"can be seen as a composite of inequality arising from differences in effort and ability, which would tend to encourage competition and productivity, and inequality attributable to unequal opportunities, particularly in terms of access to basic goods and services, which might translate to wasted human potential and lower levels of development. The analysis in this paper applies a measure of educational opportunities that incorporates inequality between"types"or circumstance groups. Theories from economic history are used to instrument for this type of inequality in a large cross-country dataset. The results seem to confirm the hypothesis that this measure of inequality of opportunity is a better fit for structural inequality than the Gini index of income. The results suggest that inequality of endowments at the outset of history led to unequal educational opportunities, which in turn affected development outcomes such as institutional quality, infant mortality, and economic growth. The findings are robust to several checks on the instrumental variable specification.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6735.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6735
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  1. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," NBER Working Papers 15664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Jérémie Gignoux, 2011. "The Measurement Of Inequality Of Opportunity: Theory And An Application To Latin America," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 57(4), pages 622-657, December.
  3. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Duflo, Esther, 2003. " Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-99, September.
  4. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1994. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," NBER Technical Working Papers 0151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1996. "Does Head Start Help Hispanic Children?," NBER Working Papers 5805, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," NBER Working Papers 10568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Pamela Jakiela & Edward Miguel & Vera L. te Velde, 2010. "You've Earned It: Combining Field and Lab Experiments to Estimate the Impact of Human Capital on Social Preferences," NBER Working Papers 16449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. John E. Roemer, 2002. "Equality of opportunity: A progress report," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 455-471, April.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2012. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 3077-3110, October.
  10. Harold Alderman & John Hoddinott & Bill Kinsey, 2006. "Long term consequences of early childhood malnutrition," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 450-474, July.
  11. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal Of Fortune: Geography And Institutions In The Making Of The Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
  12. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
  13. Chetty, Raj & Friedman, John Norton & Hilger, Nathanial & Saez, Emmanuel & Schanzenbach, Dianne Whitmore & Yagan, Danny, 2011. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star," Scholarly Articles 9639983, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  14. David Y. Albouy, 2012. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 3059-76, October.
  15. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242.
  16. Francisco H.G. Ferreira, 2001. "Education for the masses? The interaction between wealth, educational and political inequalities," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 9(2), pages 533-552, July.
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