Inequality: Economic and Social Perspectives

Inequality: Economic and Social Perspectives

Inequality Economic and Social Perspectives Teresa Meade and Eshragh Motahar Fall 2015 Introduction

What do we mean by inequality? Is it inevitable?

Historical context What is new? Why should we care about it? Policies Methodological Issues Opinion vs. evidence-based critical analysis

Correlation vs. causation Thomas Piketty Book published in Spring 2014 Capital in the Twenty-First Century Piketty mania: how an economics lecture became the hottest gig in town Pikettymania A specter is haunting Europe and the U.S.the specter of plutocracy. In Britain, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has

suggested the moment has arrived to consider a wealth tax. In France, which already has one, plans to ease its bite were recently canceled. Even in the more timid precincts of Washington, you cannot swing a V for Vendetta mask without hitting a think tank panel on inequality. Everyone, it seems, is worried we are shortly headed for a world in which a handful of rich people will own everything, and the

rest are forced to rent their air and water from Mark Zuckerberg. The Piketty Graph

Graphs Piketty on the U.S. (in one graph)

Other indicators [scroll down] CEO Pay These U.S. CEOs Make a Lot More Money

Than Their Workers Average CEO pay at the 350 largest U.S. companies by revenue surged 997 percent from 1978 to 2014, while the compensation of non-supervisory

employees rose 10.9 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a research group that advocates for workers. In summary, as of now (in approximate numbers) The top 1%

is taking home more than 20% of total income Owns at least 38% of total wealth The richest 400 people in the U.S. have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together CEOs of large corporations now earn 300 times wages of average workers (vs. 35-40 times in 50s60s)

Pikettys Contributions The truly richtop 1% [making it visible] Inheritance were on a path back to patrimonial capitalism, in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family

dynasties. Its a work that melds grand historical sweep when was the last time you heard an economist invoke Jane Austen and Balzac?with painstaking data analysis.

Pikettys Contributions (2) Income from capital vs. earned income (wages and salaries) Unequal ownership of assets, not unequal pay, is the prime driver of income disparities A good diagnosis is important if one is looking for remedies.

Why does it matter? Patrimonial capitalism Inequality of opportunity Oligarchy Lower growth More unstable economy

Is U.S. becoming an Oligarchy? Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.

The New York Times, August, 2015 Scholarly Sources (1) IMF study finds inequality is damaging to economic growth International Monetary Fund paper dismisses the argument that redistributing incomes is

self-defeating Scholarly Sources (2) We use consumption and balance sheet data disaggregated between the top 5% and the bottom 95% of US households by income to show that the bottom 95% went deeply into debt to mitigate the impact of their stagnant incomes on their consumption. We use micro data to calibrate an intrinsic Keynesian growth model and show that over a

range of plausible parameter values, the rise in US household income inequality increased enough between the early 1980s and 2000s to cause the entire magnitude of the Great Recession and can explain the slow and prolonged recovery.

* Authors Cynamon: Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Center for Household Financial Stability; Fazzari: Departments of Economics and Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. . and Income Inequality Hurts Economic Growth

Forbes Magazine Proposed Policies Piketty: progressive wealth tax at the global scale, based upon automatic exchange of bank information Pikettys critics

Data Predictions Policy recommendations Some Key Concepts Income (flow) Wealth (stock)

The T-shirt r vs. g r rate of return on capital g rate of growth of income

If r > g, then the ratio of capitalists wealth to workers wage increases at an annual rate of g Thus r > g can be regarded as an amplification mechanism for existing inequalities, including labor income inequalities

r Appendix: Some additional graphs, tables, etc. Pikettys Numerical Estimates r = 4-5% g = 1.5

Thus, r g = 3% CEO Pay Money to Burn: How CEO Pay is Accelerating Climate Change

IPS: Marginal Tax Rates Piketty Graph Some Relevant Sites http://


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