Income inequality, redistribution and economic growth

Dahlby, Bev
Ferede, Ergete
Faculty Advisor
income inequality , economic growth
Abstract (summary)
Inequality is on the rise in Canada and this state of affairs has provoked outrage and demands for redistribution at a time when governments at every level are searching for reliable long-term growth.This paper examines the links between income inequality and economic growth and whether there is a trade-off between redistributive policies, and economic growth, or whether income redistribution canenable faster growth. The authors survey the existing literature on the impact of inequality on economic growth, and then conduct an econometric analysis of the association between provincial economic growth in Canada and three different measures of income inequality, finding no statistically significant relationships. One measure of income redistribution, the difference between the market income Gini coefficient and the disposable (after-tax, after-transfer) income Gini is positively associated with provincial growth rates — but since the largest transfer programs in Canada are federal programs financed out of nation-wide taxes, it is unlikely that this association carries over to the national level.Much of the growth in income disparity has been driven by innovation that places a premium on highly trained workers. With that in mind, the Goldin-Katz model, used to explain the rising earnings differentials of highly skilled workers in the US, can be combined with the Aghion-Bolton model of capital market imperfections to develop a framework for examining the impact of education spending,and the taxes that finance it, on earnings inequality and economic growth. The authors then review evidence that raising marginal tax rates on high-income individuals would not raise additional tax revenues, but impose substantial costs on the economy, as would higher corporate income taxes.Punishing high earners is a self-defeating choice, although improvements to the social safety net would give more Canadians the chance to join their ranks.
Publication Information
Dahlby, B. and Ferede, E. “Income inequality, redistribution and economic growth.” SPP Research Papers 6, no. 25 (2013), School of Public Policy, University of Calgary. doi:
Item Type
Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)