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Can the link between functional and personal income distribution enhance the analysis of inequality?

Marisa Civardi () and Renata Targetti Lenti ()
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Marisa Civardi: Università degli studi di Milano-Bicocca
Renata Targetti Lenti: Università degli studi di Pavia

International Review of Economics, 2018, vol. 65, issue 2, 137-156

Abstract: Abstract The aim of this paper is to present a framework which links functional and personal income distribution. In the first part of the paper, Piketty’s book “Capital in the XXI Century” is briefly reviewed. Piketty’s framework is discussed arguing that it can only partially explain levels and changes within personal income distribution. Piketty links the returns from capital r to the rate of growth of national income g in a very innovative way comparing them within a macroeconomic framework. He claims that when returns on capital rise more quickly than the overall economy and taxes on capital remain low, a vicious circle of ever-growing dynastic wealth and growing concentration of wealth takes place. However, the rise in the inequality of personal income distribution cannot only be explained by the rise of capital incomes. An analysis of the generation of personal incomes, and consequently of inequality, requires a suitable framework that links incomes at the macroeconomic level (national accounts) and incomes at the level of the individual/household. It is possible to set up this framework starting from individual endowments and their link to the productive structure: that is to what can be called the “generating function of personal income.” This function transforms personal endowments into personal earnings, given the productive structure, the technologies, and the market rules that determine the functional distribution. Personal income distribution and its inequality are linked to the functional one through the shares of capital and labor owned by each individual. The framework introduced here seems to be a suitable tool to account for the fact that personal income distribution is inextricably tied up to different sources of inequality in the distribution of national income. Sources come from institutional and productive structures (matrix Y), but also from the distribution of endowments and of individual/household entitlements (matrix S). This approach, we argue, allows for the assessment and evaluation of the effects of “ambitious new policies,” aimed at reducing poverty and inequality ex-ante, as suggested by Atkinson in his last book.

Keywords: Capitalism; Inequality; Income distribution (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P16 P48 D31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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