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One or many Kuznets curves? Short and long run effects of the impact of skill-biased technological change on income inequality

By Gianluca Grimalda and Marco Vivarelli

Abstract

We draw on a dynamical two-sector model and on a calibration exercise to study the impact of a skill-biased technological shock on the growth path and income distribution of a developing economy. The model builds on the theoretical framework developed by Silverberg and Verspagen (1995) and on the idea of localised technological change (Atkinson and Stiglitz, 1969) with sector-level increasing returns to scale. We find that a scenario of catching-up to the high-growth steady state is predictable for those economies starting off with a high enough endowment of skilled workforce. During the transition phase, if the skill upgrade process for the workforce is relatively slow, the typical inverse-U Kuznets pattern emerges for income inequality in the long run. Small-scale Kuznets curves, driven by sectoral business cycles, may also be detected in the short run. Conversely, economies initially suffering from significant skill shortages remain trapped in a low-growth steady state. Although the long-term trend is one of decreasing inequality, small-scale Kuznets curves may be detected even in this case, which may cause problems of observational equivalence between the two scenarios for the policy-maker. The underlying factors of inequality, and the evolution of a more comprehensive measure of inequality than the one normally used, are also analysed

Topics: HD
Publisher: University of Warwick. Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1970

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