Monash University
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Three essays on income inequality

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posted on 2017-03-01, 01:57 authored by Saha, Anjan Kumar
This thesis contains three essays on income inequality. The underlying theme is to investigate the relationship of income inequality with political instability, economic growth, and financial development. To this end, the first study aims to explore the relationship of income inequality with political instability. Motivated by the observation that politically unstable countries tend to have wide income gaps, the study explores the possibility that major source of political instability is income inequality, which can be traced back to the history of early development across the globe. Using data for 95 countries, the estimates provide support for the notion that before 1500 CE early development of our ancestors, and after 1500 CE colonization, and evolution of institutions can explain today’s income inequality, which subsequently affects political stability of a country. Irrespective of the subsamples used, the results confirm highly significant impact of unequal income distribution on political instability. The second study investigates the endogeneity between income inequality and economic growth, which seems to be impregnable in the literature. Motivated by Spolaore and Wacziarg’s (2009) influential idea that genetic distance of population between countries puts barrier to the diffusion of development, this work constructs weighted average growth of other countries as instruments for economic growth that can explain inequality across the countries. The weights come from genetic and geographic distances between two countries. Income growth per capita is instrumented to find growth’s impact on the top income shares first, and then the residuals of the regression are used as instruments for the top income shares to identify the net impact of top income shares on economic growth in the subsequent regressions. Using top income data of fourteen OECD countries for around hundred years, the estimates provide support to the view that growth reduces top income shares; however, top income shares in turn enhances economic growth. The third study explores the possibility of financial development as a major determinant of top income shares in the OECD countries. In a century long panel of time series data of top income shares and financial development, the work attempts to capture the impact of financial development on the income distribution of the top income strata. Couple of dynamic models has been used to check the robustness of our hypothesis in favour of financial development as a major source of rise in the top income shares. The results show that a one standard deviation rise in financial development, measured by private credit-GDP ratio, is associated with an increase of the top 1% income shares by around 0.3 standard deviation of its own. The effects are also robust to the other measures of top income shares.


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Jakob Madsen

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Faculty of Business and Economics

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