Firms with greater market power can behave monopolistically, and recent research suggests that declining market competitiveness is driving income inequality. While competition authorities already measure the overall impact of their interventions by using customer savings, these measurements do not account for indirect effects of intervention. This column introduces a DSGE model to model competition policy interventions as a negative mark-up shock. Competition policy has a significant and positive impact on growth and jobs, and impacts richer and poorer households differently. Interventions have important redistributive effects that benefit the poorest in society.
Fabienne Ilzkovitz, Adriaan Dierx, 19 June 2016
Brandon Dupont, Joshua L. Rosenbloom, 19 June 2016
The long-run persistence of social and economic status has received substantial attention from economists of late. But the impact of economic and political shocks on this persistence has yet to be thoroughly explored. This column examines the disruptions from the US Civil War on the Southern wealth distribution. Results suggest that an entrenched southern planter elite retained their economic status after the war. However, the turmoil of the decade opened mobility opportunities for Southerners of more modest means, especially compared with the North.
Peter H. Lindert, Jeffrey G. Williamson, 16 June 2016
Americans have long debated when the country became the world’s economic leader, when it became so unequal, and how inequality and growth might be linked. Yet those debates have lacked the quantitative evidence needed to choose between competing views. This column introduces evidence on American incomes per capita and inequality for two centuries before World War I. American history suggests that inequality is not driven by some fundamental law of capitalist development, but rather by episodic shifts in five basic forces: demography, education policy, trade competition, financial regulation policy, and labour-saving technological change.
Torben M. Andersen, Jonas Maibom, 29 May 2016
Theory and empirical data contest the direction of causality in the relationship between economic performance and income inequality – a relationship that is of great political importance. This column uses evidence from OECD countries to show that the relationship is not linear. While some countries can improve economic performance only at the cost of increasing economic inequality, other countries can improve both economic performance and equality without such a trade-off.
Gilles Duranton, Ejaz Ghani, Arti Grover Goswami, William Kerr, 27 May 2016
Optimising the allocation of factors of production improves productivity. In India, where evidence suggests land is severely misallocated to inefficient manufacturing firms, access to financing is disproportionately tied to access to land. This column examines the link between the misallocation of land and access to capital through financial markets. A very strong positive correlation emerges between the two, consistent with the fact that land and buildings can provide strong collateral support for accessing finance from the credit market.
Peter Egger, Sergey Nigai, Nora Strecker, 21 May 2016
Increased globalisation since the mid-1990s has eroded some of the tax bases of many economies. At the same time, demand for public goods has risen and governments face the challenge of financing greater public expenditure with lower tax revenues. This column discusses tax policy responses to increasing globalisation, showing that since the mid-1990s governments in OECD countries have increasingly relied on revenues from employee-borne rather than firm-borne taxes. Due to the greater mobility of capital and high-skilled workers, who are able to escape higher taxes more easily, the middle classes have carried much of the additional tax burden.
Clément Bosquet, Henry Overman, 29 April 2016
The effect of an individual’s place of residence on their life chances has long been discussed in public policy debates. This column uses British Household Panel Survey data to assess whether birthplace plays a role in determining future earnings. On average, an individual born in London in the 1970s will earn around 7% more than an individual of the same age and gender born in Manchester; who in turn will earn 5.5% more than an individual born in Cardiff. Parental sorting and the influence of birthplace in decisions about current location both play a role in explaining this effect.
Markus Poschke, Barış Kaymak, 17 April 2016
Recent decades have seen a remarkable increase in the concentration of wealth in the hands of the wealthiest in the US. This column examines which factors may have driven this increase. The evidence points to higher wage inequality, often attributed to new developments in the technology of production, as the main driving force, followed by tax cuts for top earners and more generous public transfers as secondary factors.
Andrea Garnero, Alexander Hijzen , Sébastien Martin, 21 March 2016
Some economists argue that income inequality suggests intra-generational mobility in society. This column provides comprehensive evidence across a large number of advanced economies on the importance of intra-generational mobility and its relationship with earnings inequality. The findings do not support the belief that higher earnings inequality necessarily goes hand-in-hand with greater mobility over the working life. Higher inequalities are not systematically compensated by higher mobility opportunities.
Jason Furman, 17 March 2016
The US is becoming ever more unequal. This column assesses the 2016 Economic Report of the President, highlighting that middle-class incomes are shaped by productivity growth, labour force participation, and the equality of outcomes. As the US economy moves beyond recovery from the Global Crisis, its policy stance should focus on promoting each of those factors to foster inclusive growth.
Joshua Aizenman, Yothin Jinjarak, Jungsuk Kim, Donghyun Park, 08 January 2016
Taxation in developing nations has always been difficult, but the Global Crisis has brought further complications. This column examines and compares the tax revenue trends in Asia and Latin America to shed light on some of these issues. Despite their similarities, there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for tax/GDP ratios between the two regions. While progress has been made, the gap between the advanced economies and developing countries offers ample room for improvement. This is particularly important for developing nations as they face growing demand for fiscal spending.
Martin Ravallion, 23 December 2015
With the new UN Global Goals agreed this autumn, the issue of poverty is at the top of global agenda. This column presents a new book that reviews past and present debates on poverty in both rich and poor countries. The challenges ahead are in assuring the political will and administrative capabilities to implement and enforce sound anti-poverty policies, and in adapting them to differing circumstances and evolving knowledge about their efficacy.
Stefania Albanesi, Claudia Olivetti, María José Prados, 21 December 2015
The gender gap in the workplace persists, affecting women in professional and managerial occupations the most. This column looks at the gender gap among top executives at Standard & Poor’s firms and suggests that performance-related pay schemes should be better scrutinised. Increasing transparency of an executive’s compensation relative to others in similar positions might go some way towards mitigating gender pay inequality for top executives.
Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Salvatore Morelli, 08 December 2015
The concentration of personal wealth has received a lot of attention since the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. This column investigates the UK and finds wealth distribution to be highly concentrated. The data seem to suggest that the top wealth share has increased in the UK over the first decade of this century.
Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, 01 December 2015
The COP21 conference faces a severe problem when it comes to funding climate adaptation in developing countries. This column examines novel strategies to increase the funding. The strategies are based on high individual carbon emitters wherever they are in the world, rather than according to the responsibilities of high-emitting countries. To this end, a global distribution of individual income and CO2e emissions is constructed.
Guido Alfani, Wouter Ryckbosch, 06 November 2015
Thomas Piketty and others have prompted renewed interest in understanding long-term patterns of inequality. This column presents evidence from pre-industrial Europe. Inequality rose even during the success stories of early modern Europe, but it can hardly have been the sole requisite for growth. In both economic history and today’s economic theory, the idea of a universal trade-off between growth and inequality needs to be replaced by stronger attention to social processes and institutional developments.
Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Salvatore Morelli, 06 September 2015
The concentration of personal wealth is now receiving a great deal of attention – after having been neglected for many years. One reason is the growing recognition that, in seeking explanations for rising income inequality, we need to look not only at wages and earned income but also at income from capital, particularly at the top of the distribution. In this paper, we use evidence from existing data sources to attempt to answer three questions: (i) what is the share of total personal wealth that is owned by the top 1 per cent, or the top 0.1 per cent? (ii) is wealth much more unequally distributed than income? (iii) is the concentration of wealth at the top increasing over time? The main conclusion of the paper is that the evidence about the UK concentration of wealth post-2000 is seriously incomplete and significant investment is necessary if we are to provide satisfactory answers to the three questions.
Melissa S. Kearney, Phillip B. Levine, 16 July 2015
Early childhood education has important effects on the academic readiness and ultimate life chances of children. This column examines how the introduction of the educational television show Sesame Street in the US affected primary school outcomes for disadvantaged children. Those from counties that had better access to the broadcast had superior educational outcomes through their early school years. These effects were particularly pronounced for black, non-Hispanic children, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas. The extremely low cost per child of such interventions make them ideal for addressing educational inequality in childhood.
Matthew E. Kahn, Cong Sun, Siqi Zheng, 08 July 2015
China’s cities suffer from extremely high levels of air pollution, and Chinese consumers spend more than $US100 million on anti-smog products per year. Using recent internet sales data, this column explores how investing in such self-protection products varies for consumers with different income brackets. The urban poor are shown to be less likely to engage in this health-improving strategy. This suggests that cross-sectional income comparisons understate lifetime inequality.
Branko Milanovic, 06 May 2015
Our level of income is unarguably dependent on where we live in the world. But evidencing this is tricky. This column presents a model that explains global income variability using one variable only – where you live. The results suggest that we might want to reassess how we think about both economic migration and global inequality of opportunity.