258 research outputs found

    Education, Income Distribution and Growth: The Local Connection

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    This paper develops a simple model of human capital accumulation and community formation by heterogeneous families, which provides an integrated framework for analyzing the local determinants of inequality and growth. Five main conclusions emerge. First, minor differences in education technologies, preferences, or wealth can lead to a high degree of stratification. Imperfect capital markets are not necessary, but will compound these other sources. Second, stratification makes inequality in education and income more persistent across generations. Whether or not the same is true of inequality in total wealth depends on the ability of the rich to appropriate the rents created by their secession. Third, the polarization of urban areas resulting from individual residential decisions can be quite inefficient, both from the point of view of aggregate growth and in the Pareto sense, especially in the long run. Fourth, when state-wide equalization of school expenditures is insufficient to reduce stratification, it may improve educational achievement in poor communities much less than it lowers it in richer communities; thus average academic performance and income growth both fall. Yet it may still be possible for education policy to improve both equity and efficiency. Fifth, because of the cumulative nature of the stratification process, it is likely to be much harder to reverse once it has run its course than to arrest it at an early stage.

    Inequality, Technology, and the Social Contract

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    The distribution of human capital and income lies at the center of a nexus of forces that shape a country's economic, institutional and technological structure. I develop here a unified model to analyze these interactions and their growth consequences. Five main issues are addressed. First, I identify the key factors that make both European-style "welfare state" and US-style "laissez-faire" social contracts sustainable.; I also compare the growth rates of these two politico-economic steady states, which are no Pareto-rankable. Second, I examine how technological evolutions affect the set of redistributive institutions that can be durably sustained, showing in particular how skill-biased technical change may cause the welfare state to unravel. Third, I model the endogenous determination of technology or organizational form that results from firms' tailoring the flexibility of their production processes to the distribution of workers' skills. The greater is human capital heterogeneity, the more flexible and wage-disequalizing is the equilibrium technology. Moreover, firms' choices tend to generate excessive flexibility, resulting in suboptimal growth or even self-sustaining technology-inequality traps. Fourth, I examine how institutions also shape the course of technology; thus, a world-wide shift in the technology frontier results in different evolutions of production processes and skill premia across countries with different social contracts. Finally, I ask what joint configurations of technology, inequality and redistributive policy are feasible in the long run, when all three are endogenous. I show in particular how the diffusion of technology leads to the exporting' of inequality across borders; and how this, in turn, generates spillovers between social contracts that make it more difficult for nations to maintain distinct institutions and social structures.

    Ideology

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    I develop a model of ideologies as collectively sustained (yet individually rational) distortions in beliefs concerning the proper scope of governments versus markets. In processing and interpreting signals of the efficacy of public and market provision of education, health insurance, pensions, etc., individuals optimally trade off the value of remaining hopeful about their future prospects (or their children’s) versus the costs of misinformed decisions. Because these future outcomes also depend on whether other citizens respond to unpleasant facts with realism or denial, endogenous social cognitions emerge. Thus, an equilibrium in which people acknowledge the limitations of interventionism coexists with one in which they remain obstinately blind to them, embracing a statist ideology and voting for an excessively large government. Conversely, an equilibrium associated with appropriate public responses to market failures coexists with one dominated by a laissez-faire ideology and blind faith in the invisible hand. With public-sector capital, this interplay of beliefs and institutions leads to history-dependent dynamics. The model also explains why societies find it desirable to set up constitutional protections for dissenting views, even when ex-post everyone would prefer to ignore unwelcome news.ideology, statism, laissez-faire, cognitive dissonance, wishful thinking, institutions, political economy, psychology

    Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics

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    International surveys reveal wide differences between the views held in different countries concerning the causes of wealth or poverty and the extent to which people are responsible for their own fate. At the same time, social ethnographies and experiments by psychologists demonstrate individuals' recurrent struggle with cognitive dissonance as they seek to maintain, and pass on to their children, a view of the world where effort ultimately pays off and everyone gets their just deserts. This paper offers a model that helps explain: i) why most people feel such a need to believe in a "just world"; ii) why this need, and therefore the prevalence of the belief, varies considerably across countries; iii) the implications of this phenomenon for international differences in political ideology, levels of redistribution, labor supply, aggregate income, and popular perceptions of the poor. The model shows in particular how complementarities arise endogenously between individuals' desired beliefs or ideological choices, resulting in two equilibria. A first, "American" equilibrium is characterized by a high prevalence of just-world beliefs among the population and relatively laissez-faire policies. The other, "European" equilibrium is characterized by more pessimism about the role of effort in economic outcomes and a more extensive welfare state. More generally, the paper develops a theory of collective beliefs and motivated cognitions, including those concerning "money" (consumption) and happiness, as well as religion.

    Laws and Norms

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    This paper analyzes how private decisions and public policies are shaped by personal and societal preferences ("values"), material or other explicit incentives ("laws") and social sanctions or rewards ("norms"). It first examines how honor, stigma and social norms arise from individuals' behaviors and inferences, and how they interact with material incentives. It then characterizes optimal incentive-setting in the presence of norms, deriving in particular appropriately modified versions of Pigou and Ramsey taxation. Incorporating agents' imperfect knowledge of the distribution of preferences opens up to analysis several new questions. The first is social psychologists' practice of "norms-based interventions", namely campaigns and messages that seek to alter people’s perceptions of what constitutes "normal" behavior or values among their peers. The model makes clear how such interventions operate but also how their effectiveness is limited by a credibility problem, particularly when the descriptive and prescriptive norms conflict. The next main question is the expressive role of law. The choices of legislators and other principals naturally reflect their knowledge of societal preferences, and these same "community standards" are also what shapes social judgments and moral sentiments. Setting law thus means both imposing material incentives and sending a message about society's values, and hence about the norms that different behaviors are likely to encounter. The analysis, combining an informed principal with individually signaling agents, makes precise the notion of expressive law, determining in particular when a weakening or a strengthening of incentives is called for. Pushing further this logic, the paper also sheds light on why societies are often resistant to the message of economists, as well as on why they renounce certain policies, such as "cruel and unusual" punishments, irrespective of effectiveness considerations, in order to express their being "civilized".

    Individual and Corporate Social Responsibility

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    Society's demands for individual and corporate social responsibility as an alternative response to market and distributive failures are becoming increasingly prominent. We first draw on recent developments in the "psychology and economics" of prosocial behavior to shed light on this trend, which reflects a complex interplay of genuine altruism, social or self image concerns, and material incentives. We then link individual concerns to corporate social responsibility, contrasting three possible understandings of the term: the adoption of a more long-term perspective by firms, the delegated exercise of prosocial behavior on behalf of stakeholders, and insider-initiated corporate philanthropy. For both individuals and firms we discuss the benefits, costs and limits of socially responsible behavior as a means to further societal goals.corporate social responsibility, socially responsible investment, image concerns, shareholder value

    Inequality and Growth

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    Using two unifying models and an empirical exercise, this paper present and extends the main theories linking income distribution and growth, as well as the relevant empirical evidence. The first model integrates the political economy and imperfect capital markets theories. It allows for explicit departures from perfect democracy and embodies the tradeoff between the growth costs and benefits of redistribution through taxes, land reform or public schooling: such policies simultaneously depress savings incentives and ease wealth constraints which impede investment by the poor. The second model is a growth version of the prisoner's dilemma which captures the essence of theories where sociopolitical conflict reduces the security of property rights thereby discouraging accumulation. The economy's growth rate is shown to fall with interest groups' rent-seeking abilities, as well as with the gap between rich and poor. It is not income inequality per se that matters, but inequality in the relative distribution of earnings and political power. For each of the three channels of political economy, capital markets and social conflict, the empirical evidence is surveyed and discussed in conjunction with theoretical analysis. Finally, the possibility of multiple steady-states leads me to to raise and take up a new empirical issue: are cross-country differences in inequality permanent, or gradually narrowing? Equivalently, is there conver- gence not only in first moments (GDP per capita), but convergence in distribution?

    Tax and Education Policy in a Heterogeneous Agent Economy: What Levels f Redistribution Maximize Growth and Efficiency?

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    This paper studies the effects of progressive income taxes and education finance in a dynamic heterogeneous agent economy. Such redistributive policies entail distortions to labor supply and savings, but also serve as partial substitutes for missing credit and insurance markets. The resulting tradeoffs for growth and efficiency are explored, both theoretically and quantitatively, in a model which yields complete analytical solutions. Progressive education finance always leads to higher income growth than taxes and transfers, but at the cost of lower insurance. Overall efficiency is assessed using a new measure which properly reflects aggregate resources and idiosyncratic risks but, unlike a standard social welfare function, does not reward equality per se. Simulations using empirical parameter estimates show that the efficiency costs and benefits of redistribution are generally of the same order of magnitude, resulting in reasonable values for the optimal rates. Aggregate income and aggregate welfare provide only very crude lower and upper bounds around the true efficiency tradeoff.
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