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The Analysis of Inequality in the Bretton Woods Institutions

Francisco Ferreira

No 10149, Policy Research Working Paper Series from The World Bank

Abstract: This paper assesses the evolution of thinking, analysis, and discourse about inequality in theWorld Bank and the International Monetary Fund since their inception in 1944, on the basis of bibliometric analysis, areading of the literature, and personal experience. Whereas the Fund was largely unconcerned with economic inequalityuntil the 2000s but has shown a rapidly growing interest since then, the Bank’s approach has been characterized byebbs and flows, with five phases being apparent. The degree of interest in inequality in the two institutions appears tobe largely determined by the prevailing intellectual profile of the topic in academic research, particularly ineconomics, and by ideological shifts in major shareholder countries, propagated downward internally by seniormanagement. Data availability, albeit partly endogenous, also plays a role. Looking ahead, World Bank andInternational Monetary Fund researchers continue to have an important role to play, despite a much more crowded field ininequality research. The paper suggests that this role involves holding firm to an emphasis on inequality “at thebottom” and highlighting four themes that may deserve special attention.

Date: 2022-08-22
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