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Mass Consumption, Exclusion, and Unemployment

  • Reto Foellmi
  • Joseph Zweimüller

We introduce non-homothetic preferences into a general equilibrium model of monopolistic competition and explore the impact of income inequality on the medium-run macroeconomic equilibrium. We find that (i) a sufficiently high extent of inequality divides the economy into mass consumption sectors (where firms charge low prices and hire many workers) and exclusive sectors (where firms charge high prices and hire few workers). (ii) High inequality may lead to a situation of underemployment and that underemployment could be ”Keynesian” in the sense that it cannot be cured by downward-flexible real wages. (iii) A redistribution of income from rich to poor (by means of progressive taxation) leads to higher employment and such a redistribution is Pareto-improving. (iv) An exogenous increase in (minimum) real wages have a cost effect (that lets firms reduce their employment) and a purchasing power effect (that creates an incentive for mass production and raises aggregate employment) with ambiguous net effects. (v) The economy may feature multiple equilibria where full-employment and unemployment equilibria co-exist.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 296.

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Date of creation: Jul 2006
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:296
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  1. Silvestre, J., 1991. "The Market-Power Foundations of Macroeconomic Policy," Papers 374, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  2. Hart, Oliver, 1982. "A Model of Imperfect Competition with Keynesian Features," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 109-38, February.
  3. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1999. "A Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods under Non-homothetic Preferences: Demand Complementarities, Income Distribution, and North-South Trade," Discussion Papers 1241, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Giuseppe Bertola, 1991. "Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth," NBER Working Papers 3851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 1999. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality in the Process of Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 2307, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1975. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 64, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  7. Foellmi, Reto & Zweimuller, Josef, 2004. "Inequality, market power, and product diversity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 139-145, January.
  8. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1988. "Income Distribution, Market Size, and Industrialization," NBER Working Papers 2709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Roland Benabou, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," NBER Working Papers 5658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Reto Foellmi & Josef Zweimuller, 2006. "Income Distribution and Demand-Induced Innovations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 941-960.
  11. Silvestre, J., 1988. "There May Be Unemployment When The Labor Market Is Competitive And The Output Market Is Not," Papers 316, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  12. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1999. "The Rise of Mass Consumption Societies," Discussion Papers 1289, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  13. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 2013. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Working Papers 2013-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  14. d’ASPREMONT, C. & DOS SANTOS FERREIRA, R. & GERARD-VARET, L.-A., 1986. "On monopolistic competition and involuntary unemployment," CORE Discussion Papers 1986035, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  15. Devashish Mitra & Vitor Trindade, 2003. "Inequality and Trade," NBER Working Papers 10087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Vertical Product Differentiation and North-South Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 810-22, December.
  17. Dehez, Pierre, 1985. "Monopolistic equilibrium and involuntary unemployment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 160-165, June.
  18. Falkinger, Josef, 1994. "An Engelian model of growth and innovation with hierarchic consumer demand and unequal incomes," Ricerche Economiche, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 123-139, June.
  19. Gilles Saint-Paul, 2006. "Distribution and Growth in an Economy with Limited Needs: Variable Markups and 'the End of Work'," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(511), pages 382-407, 04.
  20. Chol-Won Li., . "Inequality and Growth: A Schumpeterian Perspective," Working Papers 9609, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Feb 1998.
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