Guido Alfani, Victoria Gierok, Felix Schaff, 28 January 2022

New evidence is transforming the way we look at long-term trends in economic inequality. This column reconstructs wealth inequality in the German area over five centuries. The significant declines in inequality triggered by the Black Death and again by the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–1648 and the plague that followed provide strong support for the potential levelling effects of catastrophes. However, the much lower mortality rate for Covid-19 suggests we can expect inequality to increase, not to decline, as a consequence of the pandemic.

Branko Milanovic, 24 February 2016

The Kuznets curve was widely used to describe the relationship between growth and inequality over the second half of the 20th century, but it has fallen out of favour in recent decades. This column suggests that the current upswing in inequality can be viewed as a second Kuznets curve. It is driven, like the first, by technological progress, inter-sectoral reallocation of labour, globalisation, and policy. The author argues that the US has still not reached the peak of inequality in this second Kuznets wave of the modern era.

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