On Inequality of Wealth and Income – Causes and Consequences

 On Inequality of Wealth and Income – Causes and Consequences

 

Disparity in Wealth and Income of American workers/household is a hot public policy/economic/social/political issue.

  • Wealth (Stock)
  • Income (Flow)

what are the causes and consequences of Inequality on economics and society?

 

From TRENDS IN INCOME INEQUALITY AND ITS IMPACT ON ECONOMIC GROWTH (OECD)

The disparity in the distribution of household incomes has been rising over the past three decades in a vast majority of OECD countries and such long-term trend was interrupted only temporarily in the first years of the Great Recession. Addressing these trends has moved to the top of the policy agenda in many countries. This is partly due to worries that a persistently unbalanced sharing of the growth dividend will result in social resentment, fuelling populist and protectionist sentiments, and leading to political instability. Recent discussions, particularly in the US, about increased inequality being one possible cause of the 2008 financial crisis also contributed to its relevance for policy making. But another growing reason for the strong interest of policy makers in inequality is concern about whether the cumulatively large and sometimes rapid increase in inequality might have an effect on economic growth and on the pace of exit from the current recession. Is inequality a pre-requisite for growth? Or does a greater dispersion of incomes across individuals rather undermine growth? And which are the short and long-term consequences of redistributive policies on growth?

From Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective (IMF)

Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. In advanced economies, the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest level in decades. Inequality trends have been more mixed in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs), with some countries experiencing declining inequality, but pervasive inequities in access to education, health care, and finance remain. Not surprisingly then, the extent of inequality, its drivers, and what to do about it have become some of the most hotly debated issues by policymakers and researchers alike. Against this background, the objective of this paper is two-fold.

First, we show why policymakers need to focus on the poor and the middle class. Earlier IMF work has shown that income inequality matters for growth and its sustainability. Our analysis suggests that the income distribution itself matters for growth as well. Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth. The poor and the middle class matter the most for growth via a number of interrelated economic, social, and political channels.

Second, we investigate what explains the divergent trends in inequality developments across advanced economies and EMDCs, with a particular focus on the poor and the middle class. While most existing studies have focused on advanced countries and looked at the drivers of the Gini coefficient and the income of the rich, this study explores a more diverse group of countries and pays particular attention to the income shares of the poor and the middle class—the main engines of growth. Our analysis suggests that

  • Technological progress and the resulting rise in the skill premium (positives for growth and productivity) and the decline of some labor market institutions have contributed to inequality in both advanced economies and EMDCs. Globalization has played a smaller but reinforcing role. Interestingly, we find that rising skill premium is associated with widening income disparities in advanced countries, while financial deepening is associated with rising inequality in EMDCs, suggesting scope for policies that promote financial inclusion.

  • Policies that focus on the poor and the middle class can mitigate inequality. Irrespective of the level of economic development, better access to education and health care and well-targeted social policies, while ensuring that labor market institutions do not excessively penalize the poor, can help raise the income share for the poor and the middle class.

  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling inequality. The nature of appropriate policies depends on the underlying drivers and country-specific policy and institutional settings. In advanced economies, policies should focus on reforms to increase human capital and skills, coupled with making tax systems more progressive. In EMDCs, ensuring financial deepening is accompanied with greater financial inclusion and creating incentives for lowering informality would be important. More generally, complementarities between growth and income equalityobjectives suggest that policies aimed at raising average living standards can also influence the distribution of income and ensure a more inclusive prosperity.

From World changes in inequality: an overview of facts, causes, consequences and policies (BIS)

Public concern about inequality has grown substantially in recent years. Politicians and journalists descant with increasing frequency on the increase in inequality as a threat to social stability, laying the blame on globalisation and its attendant so-called neo-liberal policies. There is certainly much truth in such views. However, the lack of rigour in the public debate is striking, and one may doubt whether a constructive discussion of inequality, its causes and its economic, social and political consequences can take place without more clarity. Is it really the case that inequality is everywhere increasing more or less continuously, as actually seems to be happening in the United States? What type of inequality are we talking about: earnings, market income, household disposable income per consumption unit, wealth? What matters most: the inequality of opportunity or the inequality of economic outcome, including income? What kind of measure should be used? The recently highly publicised share of the top 5, 1.1% taken from tax data may not evolve in the same way as the familiar Gini coefficient defined on disposable incomes. And, then, what is known about the nature of the unequalising forces that seem to affect our economies and what tools might be available to counteract them?

In an international survey conducted in 2010, people were asked how they thought inequality had changed over the previous 10 years.1 In few countries was the perception of inequality trends in agreement with what could be observed from standard statistical sources about inequality. US citizens felt inequality had remained the same, whereas it was surging by most accounts, Brazilians found it was also increasing despite the fact that, for the first time in over 40 years, inequality was declining, while French and Dutch people thought that inequality had increased although the usual inequality coefficients were remarkably stable.

Good policies must rely on precise diagnostics. It is the purpose of this paper to take stock of what is known at this stage about the evolution of inequality around the world. In so doing, it will be shown that an ever-increasing degree of inequality at all times and everywhere over the last 30 years is far from the reality, and that there is a high degree of specificity across countries. In turn, this suggests that the combination of equalising and unequalising forces may be quite different from one country to another. Some factors may be common and truly global but others may be country-specific, the outcome being quite variable across countries. It also follows that tools to correct inequality, if need be, may have to differ in nature depending on the causes of increased inequality.

Tackling all these issues in depth is beyond the scope of this paper. My aim is only to offer an overview of what is observed and the main ideas being debated in the field of economic inequality. The paper is organised as follows. It starts with a quick “tour d‘horizon“ of the evidence for the evolution of various dimensions of economic inequality. It then tackles the issue of the potential causes, identifying what may be seen as common to most countries and what may be specific. Finally, it touches upon the consequences of excessive inequality and the tools available to counter it, emphasising the rising constraints imposed by globalisation.

Causes of Inequality

  • Shareholder Capitalism
  • Focus on Cost Minimization
  • Focus on ROIC and Economic Value Added (EVA)
  • Consolidation – Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Free Trade Agreements – NAFTA
  • Increased Outsourcing
  • Global Commodity Chains
  • Global Production Networks
  • Global Value Chains
  • Lack of Educated Workforce
  • Lack of protection for Low income earners
  • Compensation for Executives vs Labor
  • Unemployment, Underemployment
  • Value of High Skilled Technical Workers
  • Technological Change
  • Skills Obsolescence

Consequences of Inequality

  • Impact on Effective Demand
  • Slows Economic Growth
  • Decreased Economic Mobility
  • Health and Social effects
  • Living Standards at the Bottom (Poverty)
  • Intergenerational Mobility
  • Democratic Process and Social Justice
  • Reduced Consumption
  • Financial Crisis
  • Social Cohesion
  • Global Imbalances
  • Hampers Poverty reduction
  • Access to Health services
  • Access to Financial Services
  • Access to Education

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

The Age of Inequality

Edited by Jeremy Gantz

2017

 

 

The Price of Inequality

Joseph Stiglitz

2012

A Firm-Level Perspective on the Role of Rents in the Rise in Inequality

Jason Furman

Peter Orszag

October 16, 2015

http://gabriel-zucman.eu/files/teaching/FurmanOrszag15.pdf

Firming Up Inequality

Jae Song, David J. Price Fatih Guvenen, Nicholas Bloom

2015

http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/62587/1/dp1354.pdf

 

 

 TOWARDS A BROADER VIEW OF COMPETITION POLICY

 

Joseph E. Stiglitz

University Professor, Columbia University,

Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute

June 2017

https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jstiglitz/sites/jstiglitz/files/Towards%20a%20Broader%20View%20of%20Competition%20Policy_0.pdf

 

 

ACCOUNTING FOR RISING CORPORATE PROFITS: INTANGIBLES OR REGULATORY RENTS?

Boston University School of Law
Law & Economics Working Paper No. 16-18

November 9, 2016

https://www.bu.edu/law/files/2016/11/Accounting-for-Rising-Corporate-Profits.pdf

Inequality: Facts, Explanations, and Policies

Jason Furman
Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers

City College of New York New York, NY

October 17, 2016

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/page/files/20161017_furman_ccny_inequality_cea.pdf

Domestic Outsourcing, Rent Seeking, and Increasing Inequality

 Eileen Appelbaum

First Published July 21, 2017

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0486613417697121

 

Global Concentration and the Rise of China

Caroline Freund and Dario Sidhu

Peterson Institute for International Economics

http://econ.au.dk/fileadmin/Economics_Business/Research/Seminars/2016/Global_Concentration_Final.pdf

How Could Wage Inequality within and Across Enterprises Be Reduced?

Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 17-62

Posted: 10 Jun 2017 Last revised: 17 Aug 2017

Christian Moser

Columbia University

Date Written: December 15, 2016

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2983691

 

 

 

The Fall of the Labor Share and the Rise of Superstar Firms

David Autor, David Dorn, Lawrence F. Katz, Christina Patterson, John Van Reenen

NBER Working Paper No. 23396
Issued in May 2017

http://www.nber.org/papers/w23396

Inequality: A Hidden Cost of Market Power

Posted: 29 Mar 2017 Last revised: 31 Mar 2017

Sean F. Ennis  Pedro Gonzaga  Chris Pike

Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) – Competition Division

Date Written: March 6, 2017

https://papers.ssrn.com/Sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2942791

 

 

Wealth and Income Inequality in the Twenty-First Century

Joseph E. Stiglitz
International Economic Association World Congress
Mexico City
June 2017

https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jstiglitz/sites/jstiglitz/files/Wealth%20and%20Income%20Inequality%2021st%20Century.pdf

 

 

The Globalization of Production and Income Inequality in Rich Democracies

Matthew C Mahutga
Anthony Roberts
Ronald Kwon

Social Forces, Volume 96, Issue 1, 1 September 2017, Pages 181–214,

 

INCOME AND WEALTH INEQUALITY: EVIDENCE AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS

EMMANUEL SAEZ

Contemporary Economic Policy

Vol. 35, No. 1, January 2017, 7–25
Online Early publication October 14, 2016

 

https://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/SaezCEP2017.pdf

 

 

Consequences of Rising Income Inequality

BY KEVIN J. LANSING AND AGNIESZKA MARKIEWICZ

October 17, 2016

Economic Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

 

http://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/files/el2016-31.pdf

 

 

 

Top Incomes, Rising Inequality, and Welfare

Kevin J. Lansing
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Agnieszka Markiewicz

June 2016

http://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/files/wp12-23bk.pdf

 

 

Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective

Era Dabla-Norris, Kalpana Kochhar, Frantisek Ricka, Nujin Suphaphiphat, and Evridiki Tsounta
(with contributions from Preya Sharma and Veronique Salins)

IMF

June 2015

https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2015/sdn1513.pdf

 

 

Piketty, Thomas. 2014.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze—an Update to 2007

Edward N. Wolff

Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

March 2010

http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf

 

 

 

CONSUMPTION AND INCOME INEQUALITY IN THE U.S. SINCE THE 1960S

Bruce D. Meyer James X. Sullivan

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

August 2017

http://www.nber.org/papers/w23655.pdf

 

 

Top Income Inequality in the 21st Century: Some Cautionary Notes

Fatih Guvenen Greg Kaplan

April 2, 2017

https://gregkaplan.uchicago.edu/sites/gregkaplan.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/top_income_inequality_web_April2_2017.pdf

 

FIFTY YEARS OF GROWTH IN AMERICAN CONSUMPTION, INCOME, AND WAGES

Bruce Sacerdote

May 16, 2017

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~bsacerdo/Sacerdote%2050%20Years%20of%20Growth%20in%20American%20Wages%20Income%20and%20Consumption%20May%202017.pdf

http://www.nber.org/papers/w23292.pdf

 

 

The Inequality Puzzle

BY LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS

 

http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/33/the-inequality-puzzle/

 

 

 

 GLOBAL INEQUALITY DYNAMICS: NEW FINDINGS FROM WID.WORLD

Facundo Alvaredo Lucas Chancel Thomas Piketty Emmanuel Saez Gabriel Zucman

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
February 2017, Revised April 2017

 

http://www.nber.org/papers/w23119.pdf

 

 

 

Power and inequality in the global political economy

NICOLA PHILLIPS

March 2017

https://academic.oup.com/ia/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ia/iix019

 

 

 Outsourcing governance: states and the politics of a ‘global value chain world’

Frederick W. Mayer & Nicola Phillips

04 Jan 2017

 

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13563467.2016.1273341

 

 

What’s caused the rise in income inequality in the US?

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/05/whats-caused-the-rise-in-income-inequality-in-the-us/

Why are American Workers getting Poorer? China, Trade and Offshoring

Avraham Ebenstein, Ann Harrison, Margaret McMillan

NBER Working Paper No. 21027
Issued in March 2015

http://www.nber.org/papers/w21027

 

 

 

The Geography of Trade and Technology Shocks in the United States

David H. Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon H. Hanson

American Economic Review

May 2013

https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.103.3.220

 

Economic Consequences of Income Inequality

Jason Furman
Joseph E. Stiglitz

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cee6/1573cd50b9c8eae3379cf1f1c92301f40927.pdf

 

Labor’s Declining Share of Income and Rising Inequality

https://www.clevelandfed.org/newsroom-and-events/publications/economic-commentary/2012-economic-commentaries/ec-201213-labors-declining-share-of-income-and-rising-inequality.aspx

 

 

World changes in inequality: an overview of facts, causes, consequences and policies

by François Bourguignon
Monetary and Economic Department
August 2017

BIS working paper

http://www.bis.org/publ/work654.pdf

“Trends in Income Inequality and its Impact on Economic Growth”

OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 163

http://www.oecd.org/social/inequality.htm

http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/trends-in-income-inequality-and-its-impact-on-economic-growth-SEM-WP163.pdf

 

Causes of income inequality in the United States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_income_inequality_in_the_United_States

 

Economic inequality

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_inequality

 

 

Income inequality in the United States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States

 

 

Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth

Prepared by Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Berg, Charalambos G. Tsangarides

 

April 2014

IMF

 

https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2014/sdn1402.pdf

 

 

 

Understanding the Economic Impact of the H-1B Program on the U.S.

John Bound† Gaurav Khanna‡ Nicolas Morales§

April 20, 2017

 

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c13842.pdf

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