Benedict Clements, David Coady, Ruud de Mooij, Sanjeev Gupta, 15 April 2014

The causes and consequences of rising inequality have stirred a lively debate on appropriate policy responses. This column reviews how governments have successfully used fiscal policy to address distributive concerns. It also examines the policy alternatives that countries can pursue in order to reduce income and wealth inequality at a minimum cost to efficiency. Such policies include exploitation of property taxes, reductions in tax deductions that favour upper-income groups, investing in increasing the human capital of low-income groups, and reforming social benefits.

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.

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.

Alberto Alesina, Paola Giuliano, 23 April 2009

Will Americans turn into “inequality intolerant” Europeans? Such a radical shift is unlikely, but this column argues that this crisis may be a turning point towards more government intervention and redistribution in the US. More and more Americans believe that hard work is insufficient to climb the income ladder and are expressing anger against “unfairly” accumulated wealth. Politicians should prefer wise policies but may be tempted by populist outbursts.

Giuseppe Bertola, Anna Lo Prete, 03 December 2008

Globalisation seemingly erodes governments’ ability to redistribute wealth. This column presents new evidence of the tradeoff between integration and redistribution, showing that financial development has filled in where government has receded. The current crisis may pose political challenges to both financial development and economic integration.

Andreas Georgiadis, Alan Manning, 05 January 2008

The standard framework for thinking about inequality and redistribution – the median voter approach – predicts that rising inequality should produce more redistribution. The facts reject this prediction for the UK and suggest that beliefs may be an important missing factor.

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