How inequality makes us poorer

From Stumbling and Mumbling:

“I welcome the Deaton report into inequality. I especially like its emphasis (pdf)upon the causes of inequality:

To understand whether inequality is a problem, we need to understand the sources of inequality, views of what is fair and the implications of inequality as well as the levels of inequality. Are present levels of inequalities due to well-deserved rewards or to unfair bargaining power, regulatory failure or political capture?

I fear, however, that there might be something missing here – the impact that inequality has upon economic performance.

My chart shows the point. It shows the 20-year annualized rate of growth in GDP per worker-hour. It’s clear that this was much stronger during the relatively egalitarian period from 1945 to the mid-70s than it was before or since, when inequality was higher.

This might, of course, be coincidence: maybe WWII caused both a backlog of investment and innovation which allowed a subsequent growth spurt and a desire for greater equality.

Or it might not. This is not the only evidence for the possibility that inequality is bad for growth. Roland Benabou gave the example (pdf) of how egalitarian South Korea has done much better than the unequal Philippines. And IMF researchers have found (pdf) a “strong negative relation” between inequality and the rate and duration of subsequent growth spells across 153 countries between 1960 and 2010.”


Posted by at 8:17 AM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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