Marco Ranaldi, Branko Milanovic, 03 December 2020

Similar levels of income inequality may coexist with completely different distributions of capital and labor incomes. This column introduces a new measure of compositional inequality, allowing the authors to distinguish between different capitalist societies. The analysis suggests that Latin America and India are rigid ‘class-based’ societies, whereas in most of Western European and North American economies (as well as in Japan and China), the split between capitalists and workers is less sharp and inequality is moderate or low. Nordic countries are ‘class-based’ yet fairly equal. Taiwan and Slovakia are closest to classless and low inequality societies. 

Antoine Bozio, Bertrand Garbinti, Jonathan Goupille-Lebret, Malka Guillot, Thomas Piketty, 18 November 2020

How much can redistribution policies account for long-run changes in inequality? This column reveals that the reduction of inequality implied by redistribution is significant in France and the US and increased throughout the entire 20th century, but pre-tax income inequality appears to be the main factor accounting for the differential levels and trends in the two countries. These findings suggest that policy discussions on inequality should pay more attention to policies affecting pre-tax inequality and should not focus exclusively on redistribution.

Margareta Drzeniek, Sheana Tambourgi, Ilaria Marchese, 12 November 2020

COVID-19 is accelerating structural transformations, notably towards more digitalised and more automated economies. This column presents a COVID-19 economic recovery index which considers the extent to which a country is exposed to major health effects from COVID-19, the degree to which a country’s economy will be affected by the crisis, and a country’s capacity to recover and rebuild to pre-COVID-19 levels. To guide their economies out of this crisis and to ready them for the coming transformation, governments need to restore trade flows, manage the risks of slowing global economic convergence, and actively prepare for accelerating economic transformation.

Sander Wagner, Diederik Boertien, Mette Gørtz, 01 November 2020

Couple formation plays an important role in affecting both the extent to which wealth remains concentrated from one generation to the next and in subsequently shaping wealth inequalities. This column uses administrative data from Denmark to study partner selection based on parental wealth. It finds a relatively low correlation in partners' parental wealth overall, but a high degree of homogamy at the top of the parental wealth distribution. In addition, it finds that homogamy based on parental wealth has increased steadily during the period 1980-2013. 

João Tovar Jalles, Luiz de Mello, 22 October 2020

Widening income disparities and slow productivity growth in many countries have rekindled interest in the policies that can deliver strong and equitable growth in output and living standards. This column presents a chronology of inclusive growth episodes, defined as increases in GDP per capita without a concomitant deterioration in the distribution of household disposable income. These episodes are more likely to occur where human capital is high, tax-benefit systems are more redistributive, productivity grows more rapidly, and labour force participation is high. Trade openness and a range of institutional factors, including political system durability and electoral regimes, also matter.

Guido Alfani, 15 October 2020

The relationship between pandemics and inequality is of significant interest at the moment. The Black Death in the 14th century is one salient example of a pandemic which dramatically decreased wealth inequality, but this column argues that the Black Death is exceptional in this respect. Pandemics in subsequent centuries have failed to significantly reduce inequality, due to different institutional environments and labour market effects. This evidence suggests that inequality and poverty are likely to increase in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

Sergio Galletta, Tommaso Giommoni, 03 October 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to increase income inequality around the world as the poorer are likely to be hit harder by the pandemic’s negative economic impact. Focusing on Italy, this column argues that such distributional consequences also appeared during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Income inequality became higher in areas more afflicted by the flu pandemic, and this is mostly explained by a reduction in the share of income held by poorer people. This effect seems to persist even a century after the pandemic.

Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 23 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a sudden, massive shift around the world to working from home. While there is great concern how this will affect inequality and how the economy will adjust, the shift has also saved billions of hours of commuting time in the US alone. Drawing on original surveys, this column estimates that the shift to working from home lowers commuting time among Americans by more than 60 million hours per workday. Americans devote about a third of the time savings to their primary jobs and about 60% to other work activities, including household chores and childcare. The allocation of time savings differs substantially by education group and between persons with and without children at home.

Ravi Kanbur, 21 September 2020

From the public discourse, it seems clear that we are living in an age of rising inequality. However, common measures of income and consumption inequality disguise a more nuanced pattern of inequality change across the world. This column argues that inequality within countries has not been rising everywhere and that inequality between countries has decreased. At the same time, technological progress is increasingly displacing basic labour in favour of skilled labour and capital, across borders, and widening the wage gap. The overall effect is unclear. National policies to mitigate inequality are needed but, in the absence of international cooperation, are constrained by cross-border spillovers.

Brian Nolan, Juan C. Palomino, Philippe Van Kerm, Salvatore Morelli, 19 September 2020

Whether and how much intergenerational transfers contribute to wealth inequality is still subject to debate. This column analyses household survey data on inheritance and gifts inter vivos in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the US to relate current household wealth levels and inequality to the receipt of intergenerational wealth transfers. In these countries, large transfers increase overall wealth inequality. Strengthening taxation capacity and instating lifetime capital acquisitions tax for gifts and inheritances may help counter the dis-equalising effect of intergenerational transfers.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 09 September 2020

Immigration policy has become a hot-button issue in both Europe and the US, with questions concerning optimal policy as well as the welfare state dominating discussions. This column revisits the idea of the immigration surplus, exploring a number of possible scenarios in terms of how policymakers should address the challenge. Correctly configuring fiscal policy so as to capture the benefits of both high- and low-skill immigrant (and native) workers is at the heart of optimal policy design and may help to address the swelling anti-immigrant sentiment that continues to exist in many countries today. 

Nicholas W. Papageorge, Matthew Zahn, Michèle Belot, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Syngjoo Choi, Julian C. Jamison, Egon Tripodi, 05 September 2020

Individual behaviours affect the spread of infectious disease. This column examines factors that predict individual behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US using novel survey data. People with lower income and less flexible work arrangements are less likely to engage in behaviours that limit the spread of disease. The burden of measures to stem the pandemic is unevenly distributed across socio-demographic groups in ways that affect behaviour and potentially the spread of illness. Policies that assume otherwise are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.

Sofoklis Goulas, Rigissa Megalokonomou, 17 August 2020

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Greece eased its high school attendance policy despite few cases being reported among children of high school age. This column examines the relationship between the relaxed attendance policy and absences, academic performance, and neighbourhood income. Students of higher prior performance took more absences, while students of lower prior performance kept going to school. Prior performance is positively associated with neighbourhood income, suggesting that students in poorer neighbourhoods may be less likely to follow school distancing guidelines during a pandemic. The relaxed attendance policy is associated with decreased performance for students that take more absences.

John McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, 10 August 2020

Income is linked to COVID-19 risk factors: poorer people are less likely to be able to socially distance or telework. However, higher-income areas tend to have more in-person interactions. This column disentangles the socioeconomic influences on COVID-19 behaviour and outcomes across the 3,000 counties of the US. Counties with higher overall income inequality tend to have higher infection rates. A higher population share of Black Americans and Hispanics is associated with higher infection rates. These effects do not fade over time from the first infection.

Esteban Aucejo, Jacob French, Paola Ugalde Araya, Basit Zafar, 09 August 2020

New research is emerging which evaluates how COVID-19 has already impacted a generation of students. This column uses a survey of students at one of the largest public universities in the US to show that while pandemic has been broadly disruptive to students, this disruption has been much larger for lower-income students. This seems to be primarily driven by lower-income students being more likely to have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and more worried about the direct health risks from the virus.

Oriol Aspachs, Ruben Durante, José García-Montalvo, Alberto Graziano, Josep Mestres, Marta Reynal-Querol, 22 September 2020

The economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic may disproportionately affect the most vulnerable segments of the population, creating serious challenges for social cohesion and political stability. This column constructs a high-frequency measure of income inequality using anonymised data from bank records on the wages and public transfers of over three million account holders in Spain. Wage inequality increased by almost 30% during the COVID-19 crisis, mainly due to job losses and wage cuts for low-income workers. However, public transfers were very effective at offsetting most, though not all, of this increase.

Ethan Ilzetzki, 05 August 2020

Pupils in schools across the UK have lost up to 105 days of education due to school closures during the COVID-19 lockdown and a second wave of the pandemic, likely in the autumn, may disrupt education further. This column discusses the latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey, in which the panel predicted that the cost to UK economic growth in the will be minor to moderate. However, the panel was unanimous that school closures will increase inequality, with a large majority of the panel predicting a persistent increase in inequality. The panel also predicted harm to gender equality, with many predicting persistent increases in inequality along gender lines.

Gianluca Violante, 31 July 2020

Most high earners bounce back from recessions. But Gianluca Violante tells Tim Phillips that, for the last 50 years, it has been a different story for low earners. 

Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, 29 July 2020

COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, who are dying at a rate two to three times higher than their population share. This column uses a detailed individual-level dataset from Cook County, Illinois, to explore the relationship between COVID-19 mortality and race. Not only are Black Americans disproportionally affected by COVID-19, but they also started to succumb to it earlier than other groups. Such asymmetric effects can be traced back to racial segregation introduced by discriminatory lending practices in the 1930s.

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