The conditional relationship between inequality and development

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In recent years political scientists and economists have spent considerable efforts investigating the impact of income inequality both on political institutions and social conflict (Boix 2003, 2008; Acemoglu and Robinson 2006; Geddes 2007) and on growth and development (Atkinson and Bourguignon 2000). In this article I focus on the latter question: I discuss the extent to which (that is, the conditions under which) inequality may hinder economic growth. I do so by moving away from the current literature, which models the relationship between development and inequality in a linear fashionwith the latter unconditionally distorting (or boosting) the incentives to invest and therefore reducing (or increasing) the rate of growth. Instead, I claim that the potential correlation between inequality and development will be always conditional on the (mostly political and institutional) causes that generate the existing income distribution to start with. Hence it is not surprising to find instances in which growth and (mostly temporary) inequality come hand in hand as well as other periods and countries where there is both high and persistent inequality jointly with economic stagnation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-649
Number of pages5
JournalPS - Political Science and Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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