Ken Mayhew, Samuel Wills, 18 June 2020

Inequality within most developed countries is higher today than it was 30 years ago. Growth in emerging economies has reduced inequality between nations, but the benefits have been unevenly spread within those economies. This column analyses what has happened, why we should care, and what can be done about inequality. Governments have not focused enough on pre-market policies that prevent inequality arising in the first place. Post-market interventions should be seen as too little, too late. Instead, we need a call-to-arms for governments to re-focus on the deep underlying drivers of inequality.

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In their first webinar briefing in a new, in-depth economic discussion series, JRF will lay out recommendations for how to level up the post-coronavirus economy to unlock opportunities for people currently trapped in poverty.

The panel will be:

Richard Partington, Economic Correspondent, The Guardian (Chair)
Tera Allas, Director of Research and Economics, McKinsey's
Dave Innes, Head of Economics, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Further speakers to be announced.

This panel discussion will be followed by a Q&A session with the chair and audience. All attendees will also receive a copy of the related report.

Nicolas Woloszko, Orsetta Causa, 31 March 2020

Rising house prices are causing a housing affordability crisis in many countries, but at the same time they are increasing homeowners’ wealth. Governments are faced with the challenge to encourage households to build up housing wealth while also fostering access to good-quality affordable housing. This column shows that, across OECD countries, those countries with higher homeownership rates display much lower wealth inequality, but argues that encouraging homeownership will not help low- and middle-income families accumulate wealth and are likely to conflict with other important policy objectives.

James Galbraith, 20 December 2019

James K. Galbraith argues that payroll data represent a more widely available and consistent measure of inequality than survey-based or tax-based measures.

Sebastian Edwards, 30 November 2019

In a few decades, Chile experienced dramatic economic growth and the fastest reduction of inequality in the region. Yet, many Chilean citizens feel that inequality has greatly increased. Such feelings of 'malestar' triggered the violent social unrest of October 2019. This paper explains this seeming paradox by differentiating ‘vertical’ (income) inequality from ‘horizontal’ (social) inequality. It argues that the neoliberalism that created Chile’s economic growth is no longer effective and that Chile may be headed towards adopting a welfare state model.

Li Yang, Filip Novokmet, Branko Milanovic, 09 October 2019

The historically unprecedented economic and social transformation in China over the past four decades has seen urban areas becoming much richer, but also much more unequal. This column analyses changes in the Chinese urban elite. It finds that, compared to the 1980s, the elite today consists mainly of professionals, self-employed, and smaller and larger business people, they are much better educated, and they receive a much greater share of total urban income. This is reflected also in the composition of the Communist Party of China.

Walter Scheidel, 02 September 2019

World War II sharply reduced income and wealth inequality in many countries. This column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes how various factors converged to produce this outcome. Mass mobilisation raised demand for labour and reduced skill premiums, extremely high marginal tax rates cut into elite incomes and fortunes, aggressive government intervention curtailed corporate and investment profits and sought to protect workers, consumers, and renters. Returns of capital fell as international markets suffered interruptions and physical assets risked confiscation or destruction. Communist regimes expanded their reach. In market economies, the war experience promoted reforms regarding social welfare, unionisation and taxation that sustained several decades of greater equality.

Elias Papaioannou, 30 August 2019

On average, if you are born in Africa today you have much better chances to succeed than your parents or grandparents. But which countries have the best, and worst, intergenerational mobility? Elias Papaioannou tells Tim Phillips about the four-year hunt for Africa's lands of opportunity.

Laurence Boone, 26 July 2019

France has surprisingly low social mobility. OECD chief economist Laurence Boone tells Tim Phillips why this is the case, how the problem fuels the gilets jaunes protests, and what can be done about it.

Paolo Acciari, Alberto Polo, Gianluca Violante, 13 July 2019

Intergenerational mobility is viewed as a proxy for a fair and fluid society, as it sheds light on the extent to which individuals with different initial conditions are presented with equal opportunities to succeed. This column investigates intergenerational income mobility in Italy and finds income persistence to be quite linear, except at the very top of the income distribution. It also finds a steep difference by region, with provinces in the north being more egalitarian and more upwardly mobile than in the south.

Sergi Basco, Martí Mestieri, 19 May 2019

Trade in intermediates (or ‘unbundling of production') and trade in capital have become increasingly important in last 25 years. This column shows that trade in intermediates generates a reallocation of capital across countries that exacerbates world inequality in both income and welfare. Unbundling of production hurts middle-income countries but helps those with high productivity. Trade in intermediates also increases within-country inequality, and this increase is U-shaped in the aggregate productivity level of the country. 

Thomas Blanchet, Lucas Chancel, Amory Gethin, 22 April 2019

Despite the growing importance of inequalities in policy debates, it is still difficult to compare inequality levels across European countries and to tell how European growth has been shared across income groups. This column draws on new evidence combining surveys, tax data, and national accounts to document a rise in income inequality in most European countries between 1980 and 2017. It finds that income disparities on the old continent have increased less than in the US and shows that this is essentially due to ‘predistribution’ policies.

Michael Brei, Giovanni Ferri, Leonardo Gambacorta, 07 March 2019

There is mounting evidence that income inequality and disparities in wealth have been rising in advanced economies in the recent decades. Using data on advanced and emerging economies, this column investigates the link between an economy's financial structure – that is, the mix of bank-provided versus market-provided funds – and income inequality. Results show that the relationship is not monotonic. More finance reduces income inequality up to a point, but beyond that point inequality rises, especially if finance is expanded via market-based financing.

Juan C. Palomino, Gustavo A. Marrero, Juan Gabriel Rodríguez, 03 January 2019

The American Dream is grounded in the US being the land of opportunities, but real opportunity requires mobility across generations. This column examines the influence of parents’ income on the income of their children in the US for the period 1980-2010. Parental income has a greater influence, implying lower levels of mobility, for families with the highest and lowest levels of income. Education also plays a stronger role in economic persistence at both tails of the income distribution, while race affects mobility in the middle and lower parts of the distribution. 

Edward Wolff, 23 December 2018

Unlike income inequality, wealth inequality along racial lines in the US has received relatively little attention. This column presents new evidence on the changing landscape of relative wealth among whites, blacks, and Hispanics between 1983 and 2016. Using an augmented measure of wealth, it highlights how cuts to social security will disproportionately affect minorities.

Carlos Gradín, Miguel Niño-Zarazúa, 06 December 2018

Miguel Niño-Zarazúa and Carlos Gradín of UNU-WIDER discuss what the last decade of research at the institute tell us about inequality.

Christian Dustmann, Bernd Fitzenberger, Markus Zimmermann, 22 October 2018

There is a lot of concern about the rise in housing costs in many developed countries and the impact it has on living conditions and inequality. Yet, to date little evidence exists on how changes in housing costs affect the distribution of disposable income. This column draws on recent research for Germany to show that shifts in housing costs severely exacerbated the rise in income inequality net of housing expenditures, and discusses the reasons behind this and implications for inequality.

Facundo Alvaredo, Lydia Assouad, Thomas Piketty, 13 August 2018

Survey estimates suggest that inequality in the Middle East is not particularly high despite considerable political conflict. This column uses new ‘distributional national accounts’ data to show that the Middle East is in fact the most unequal region in the world, with both enormous inequality between countries and large inequality within countries. The results emphasise the need to develop mechanisms of regional redistribution and to increase transparency on income and wealth data.

Janet Currie, Hannes Schwandt, Josselin Thuilliez, 10 August 2018

Understanding how inequalities in health are related to inequalities in income is a key issue for policymakers. This column describes how despite increasing income inequality in both countries, the development of mortality has been very different in France compared with the US. The findings show that inequalities in income and health do not necessarily move in tandem, and highlight how public policy helps to break this link. 

Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, Ulrike Steins, 09 August 2018

Recent work examining the evolution of the wealth distribution has tended to not paid much attention to the role of asset prices. This column uses a new US dataset to explore the role that asset price movements have in the US wealth distribution. Asset prices matter because portfolio composition differs systematically along the wealth distribution. The data further show that no progress has been made in reducing wealth inequalities between white and black households over the past 70 years. 

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