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The political economy of income comparisons and economic growth

Azam Chaudhry and Phillip Garner ()

Economic Modelling, 2013, vol. 31, issue C, 214-222

Abstract: The literature on income inequality has provided various explanations as to how income inequality can affect growth, with the emphasis on ideas such as investments in human capital, issues of occupational choice, or the redistributive policies of governments. Inequality not only has a direct effect on the distribution of consumption in an economy, but it also has a powerful effect on people's subjective sense of well being. This paper takes a novel approach by focusing on the way in which a government's choice of economic policy can be influenced by how individuals perceive themselves relative to other individuals, both within the country and in foreign countries. The chosen policy affects economic growth, with the assumption being that policies that promote growth also tend to result in more switching of individuals between income groups. We show that the government's optimal policy depends on the importance of both inside country and outside country income comparisons, the fraction of national income earned by the different income groups, the potential magnitude of economic growth, the probability of switching between income groups in the presence of growth, and the relative importance of the various income groups. The model predicts that a greater degree of inside country income comparison is bad for growth whereas more outside country comparison is good for growth.

Keywords: Inequality; Income comparisons; Political economy; Growth (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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