How finance affects income inequality

From a new VOX post:

“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.”


“Making causal inference is a challenge here. The link between finance and income inequality can go either way. More finance can lead to more income inequality, but more inequality may also foster the development of banks and specialised financial services. A common identification strategy employs instruments that are correlated with the financial structure but not correlated with income inequality. Following the literature, in a recent paper (Brei et al. 2018) we instrument the development of banks and financial markets by their initial values, legal origin, societal fractionalisation, and the location of countries (relative to the Equator). Furthermore, we control for other determinants of income inequality, including the degree of education, industrial specialisation, and inflation.

The main results of our regression analysis are represented in Figure 3. Both higher bank activity and higher market activity translate initially into lower income inequality. However, this pattern reverses beyond a certain threshold. The trajectories of income inequality, once the threshold is reached, differ for bank-based versus market-based financial development. Specifically, the subsequent rise in income inequality is much steeper in market-based financial systems. This suggests that the development of financial markets over the last decades could have produced an increase in income inequality. ”


Posted by at 1:49 PM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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