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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, Joaquim, 1990. "There May Be Unemployment When the Labour Market Is Competitive and the Output Market Is Not," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 899-913, September.
  2. 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.
  3. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 2013. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Working Papers 2013-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Benabou, R., 1996. "Inequality and Growth," Working Papers 96-22, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Foellmi, Reto & Zweimüller, Josef, 2005. "Income Distribution and Demand-Induced Innovations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4985, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Kiminori Matsuyama, 2000. "The rise of mass consumption societies," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6656, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. d'Aspremont, Claude & Dos Santos Ferreira, Rodolphe & Gerard-Varet, Louis-Andre, 1990. "On Monopolistic Competition and Involuntary Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 895-919, November.
  10. Giuseppe Bertola, 1991. "Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth," NBER Working Papers 3851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Devashish Mitra & Vitor Trindade, 2003. "Inequality and Trade," NBER Working Papers 10087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1988. "Income Distribution, Market Size, and Industrialization," NBER Working Papers 2709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. Reto Foellmi & Josef Zweimueller, . "Inequality, Market Power, and Product Diversity," IEW - Working Papers 145, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  16. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  17. Dehez, Pierre, 1985. "Monopolistic equilibrium and involuntary unemployment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 160-165, June.
  18. Silvestre, Joaquim, 1993. "The Market-Power Foundations of Macroeconomic Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 105-41, March.
  19. Chol-Won Li., . "Inequality and Growth: A Schumpeterian Perspective," Working Papers 9609, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Feb 1998.
  20. 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.
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