Christoph Lakner, Branko Milanovic, 27 May 2014

Since 1988, rapid growth in Asia has lifted billions out of poverty. Incomes at the very top of the world income distribution have also grown rapidly, whereas median incomes in rich countries have grown much more slowly. This column asks whether these developments, while reducing global income inequality overall, might undermine democracy in rich countries.

Anish Tailor, Nicolas Véron, 21 May 2014

The European Parliamentary elections are conducted under rules that give voters power that varies with their nationality. This inequality is higher than in European and US national elections, as well as in large emerging-market democracies like Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Making the distribution more equal would be simple, but would require a change in the EU Treaties.

David Blanchflower, Stephen Machin, 12 May 2014

The pain of the UK’s Great Recession has been spread more evenly than previous downturns, with falling real wages across the distribution. This column asks why this happened, how it compares with the US experience, and what the prospects are for recovering lost wage gains.

Jeffrey Frankel, 29 April 2014

Awareness of inequality is rapidly rising. This column argues that commentators should focus on identifying the policies that are best suited to improving income distributions efficiently, and the politicians that support them. It is not sufficient to sound the alarm about inequality and the political reach of the super-rich.

Amparo Castelló-Climent, Rafael Doménech, 23 April 2014

Most developing countries have made a great effort to eradicate illiteracy. As a result, the inequality in the distribution of education has been reduced by more than half from 1950 to 2010. However, inequality in the distribution of income has hardly changed. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on human capital inequality. The authors find that increasing returns to education, globalisation, and skill-biased technological change can explain why the fall in human capital inequality has not been sufficient to reduce income inequality.

Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Berg, Charalambos Tsangarides, 06 March 2014

Inequality has the potential to undermine growth. However, greater redistribution requires higher tax rates, which reduce incentives to work and save. Moreover, the evidence that inequality is bad for growth might simply reflect the fact that more unequal societies choose to redistribute more, and those efforts are antithetical to growth. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on pre- and post-tax inequality. The authors find that income equality is protective of growth, and that redistributive transfers on average have little if any direct adverse impact on growth.

Shahid Yusuf, Danny Leipziger, 03 March 2014

Urbanisation and GDP per capita are positively correlated across countries. However, when the sample is restricted to developing countries, urbanisation and growth are more loosely related – particularly in Africa. CEPR Policy Insight 71 argues that the low share of manufacturing in developing-country cities may help to explain this discrepancy. Strengthening urban finances, embracing technology, improving skills, and stimulating the formal sector will help cities to promote growth. Since decisions affecting urban development can have lasting impact, longer-term planning deserves greater attention than it is currently receiving.

Danny Leipziger, Shahid Yusuf, 03 March 2014

Urbanisation and GDP per capita are positively correlated across countries. However, when the sample is restricted to developing countries, urbanisation and growth are more loosely related – particularly in Africa. This column argues that the low share of manufacturing in developing-country cities may help to explain this discrepancy. Strengthening urban finances, embracing technology, improving skills, and stimulating the formal sector will help cities to promote growth. Since decisions affecting urban development can have lasting impact, longer-term planning deserves greater attention than it is currently receiving.

Daron Acemoğlu, Suresh Naidu, Pascual Restrepo, James Robinson, 07 February 2014

Inequality is currently a prominent topic of debate in Western democracies. In democratic countries, we might expect rising inequality to be partially offset by an increase in political support for redistribution. This column argues that the relationship between democracy, redistribution, and inequality is more complicated than that. Elites in newly democratised countries may hold on to power in other ways, the liberalisation of occupational choice may increase inequality among previously excluded groups, and the middle classes may redistribute income away from the poor as well as the rich.

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Marianna Kudlyak, John Mondragon, 29 January 2014

One popular explanation for the increase in US household debt in the years before the subprime mortgage crisis is that households with stagnating incomes borrowed more to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. This column presents recent research that questions this explanation. Low-income households in high-inequality regions in fact borrowed relatively little compared to similar households in low-inequality regions. A theoretical model in which greater local income inequality facilitates the screening of loan applicants makes predictions that are consistent with the data.

Angus Deaton, 10 January 2014

Angus Deaton talks to Viv Davies about his recent book ‘The Great Escape: health, wealth and the origins of inequality’, that explains how inequality is the catalyst for the great escape from poverty and how the world is better because of it. They discuss the state of inequality in the US, economic growth in China and India and the ineffectiveness of international aid. Deaton stresses the importance of understanding that human well being will be achieved only through a holistic approach. The interview was recorded on 17 October 2013.

Louise Cord, Leonardo Lucchetti, Carlos Rodríguez Castelán, Adam Ratzlaff, 23 December 2013

Poverty and inequality declined over the past 15 years in Latin America and the Caribbean. This column describes these changes and raises the question of sustainability of the discussed trends. Countries in the region should protect the well-being not only of those who live in poverty, but also of those vulnerable to falling back to poverty.

Fabrizio Zilibotti, 23 December 2013

Fabrizio Zilibotti talks to Viv Davies about his award-winning paper ‘Growing Like China’ (co-authored with Zheng Song, Kjetil Storesletten and Yikai Wang) that addresses the puzzle of the combination of high growth and high return to capital in China with a growing foreign surplus. They also discuss pensions and demographic transition in China, factors that are driving the country’s growth and the country’s future role in the global economy. The interview was recorded on 17 September 2013.

John Gibson, Chao Li, 27 November 2013

Many studies find evidence of a growing income inequality in China. However, the majority of these studies may be constructing biased measures of inequality. This column presents evidence from a new study on how inequality in China is overstated if one ignores the spatial differences in the cost of living. With a booming urban housing market that displays a high degree of heterogeneity, accounting for spatial price differences is essential.

David Dollar, Tatjana Kleineberg, Aart Kraay, 19 November 2013

A key Millennium Development Goal was to halve the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. This was met five years ahead of schedule, and the World Bank is promoting a new goal of ‘shared prosperity’ defined in terms of the growth rate of incomes in the bottom 40% of households. This column discusses research showing that there is a strong one-for-one relationship between overall growth and average income growth in the poorest quintiles. Overall growth is thus still important.

Michael Keen, 16 October 2013

Fiscal consolidation, and public concern that its pain be fairly spread, is putting tax systems under considerable pressure. This column takes stock of how they have been faring, and how they could do better.

Thomas Piketty, Gabriel Zucman, 26 September 2013

According to many measures, inequality has been increasing in the developed world and is now approaching prewar levels. Income inequality does not tell the whole story. This column documents the increase in the ratio of private wealth to national income. This macroeconomic change, precipitated by slowing GDP growth, exacerbates the problem of wealth inequality and makes the economy more susceptible to bubbles.

Sambit Bhattacharyya, Jeffrey Williamson, 10 August 2013

What distributional effect do natural-resource booms have on wealth, income and economic power? Using Australia as a case study, this column argues that resource booms tend to exacerbate inequality. The distributional impact of commodity-price shocks in Australia yield important lessons for primary producers from the developmental south, and it’s important for resource-rich developing countries to design appropriate policies to tackle this inequality.

Jayant Menon, 02 June 2013

How will the new members of ASEAN catch up? This column argues that the gap in income is closing between the two groups within ASEAN: the newly industrialising economies and the older members. However, a marked cost of this convergence has been increasing income inequality within individual countries. To remedy this, and to increase overall convergence, a number of conditions must be simultaneously met: investment in social infrastructure, especially education and health; improving the investment climate; and land reform that directly redresses asset inequality.

Maria Kuecken, Marie-Anne Valfort, 09 March 2013

Are African education policies reaching the marginalised? This column reports results from a cross-country analysis, finding that the sharing of textbooks has a positive effect only for the most privileged students. For the average student, textbook access has no impact on academic outcomes. Indeed, less privileged students perform poorly due to a combination of low parent and teacher expectation, poor health, and routine classroom disruptions. It is these factors that reduce the effectiveness of policies like the improvement of access to textbooks. For education to be truly for all, educational reforms must target the least privileged students.

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