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AuthorStewart, Frances
TitleIncome Distribution and Development
Imprint Geneva, United Nations. 2000
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Descript v, 30 p. : tables


Summary: Income distribution is extremely important for development, since it influences the cohesion of society, determines the extent of poverty for any given average per capita income and the poverty-reducing effects of growth, and even affects people{658}s health. The paper reviews the connections between income distribution and economic growth. It finds that the Kuznets hypothesis that income distribution worsens as levels of income increase is not at all strongly supported by the evidence, while growth rates of income are not systematically related to changes in income distribution. However, evidence is accumulating that more equal income distribution raises economic growth. Both political and economic explanations have been advanced. The finding suggests that more equal income distribution is desirable both for equity and for promoting growth. Strategies to promote more egalitarian growth are reviewed, with examples given.However, although these strategies seem both feasible and desirable, in the 1980s and 1990s there has been a strong tendency for income distribution to worsen in both developed and developing countries. A variety of explanations as to the cause for this have been advanced including trade liberalization, technology change, and the impact of liberalization and globalization more generally. Most of the paper is concerned with the distribution of pre-tax household income. A brief survey of findings on the incidence of taxation and expenditure shows that tax incidence is often neutral, or proportionate to income, and occasionally either progressive or regressive. In contrast, the incidence of public expenditure is mostly progressive, so an increase in the levels of taxation and expenditure would tend to improve the distribution of welfare. Little direct evidence has been collected on the distribution of measures of well-being, such as human development indicators, but there is strong evidence that health achievements are related to income levels, while average societal health standards tend to worsen as inequality increases. Most of the paper, along with much of the literature, is devoted to exploring the traditional concept of vertical income distribution The paper points to the importance of examining horizontal inequalities (or inequalities between groups divided on religious, ethnic, racial or other cultural grounds), since these are closely related to societal stability. In conclusion, all the analysis and evidence points to the desirability of achieving egalitarian income distribution for development. Yet current trends seem to be going in the opposite direction

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