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A POSITIVE AND A NORMATIVE THEORY OF INCOME DISTRIBUTION

Jan Tinbergen

Review of Income and Wealth, 1970, vol. 16, issue 3, 221-234

Abstract: A positive theory of income distribution based on assumptions concerning the supply of and demand for each type of productive service is presented. The demand function of the organizers of production may be derived from the maximization of profits with the income scale and the production function as restrictions. A normative theory based on the maximization of a social utility or welfare function is also considered. In the normative theory, production functions and balance equations (some representing compartmentalization of factor markets) are introduced as restrictions and again an income scale results, this time maximizing social welfare. Empirical testing is also considered. The positive theory was developed in part to take into consideration the fact that personal income distributions can reasonably well be described by log normal distributions, and that skill parameters are often normally distributed. Limited testing of the influence of wealth, intelligence, education, and sex suggest that these account for only a small part of the variance in the income distribution. This suggests the need for further research.

Date: 1970
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