The Distribution of Income and Wealth
Economic inequality has been a prominent and perennial concern in economics and public policy. The rise in inequality that occurred during the 1970s and early 1980s stimulated interest in the study of its causes and consequences. Experience from the 1990s suggests that economic growth and prosperity no longer dramatically reduce economic inequality. The persistent inequalities within nations and across nations raise several key issues that demand scholarship and innovative policies to aid in their resolution.
Recognizing this, the Levy Institute has maintained, since its inception, an active research program on the distribution of earnings, income, and wealth. Research in this area includes studies on the economic well-being of the elderly, public and private pensions, well-being over the life course, the role of assets in economic well-being, and the determinants of the accumulation of wealth.
It is widely recognized that existing official measures of economic well-being need to be improved in order to generate accurate cross-sectional and intertemporal comparisons. The picture of economic well-being can vary significantly depending on the measure used. Alternative measures are also crucially important for the formulation and evaluation of a wide variety of social and economic policies. The Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being and related research is aimed at bridging this gap.
LIMTIP Reports | June 2022
Time Use, Employment, and PovertyThere is broad consensus in both research and policy circles that one of the key reasons for a lack of progress in reducing gender gaps in employment and wages is the persistent gender imbalance in unpaid work, three-quarters of which is performed by women. Universal access to quality care services enables the reduction of this unpaid care work through its redistribution from the domestic sphere to the public sphere, with empirical studies from different regions and countries demonstrating that access to services (in particular, childcare services) substantially increases female labor force participation and labor market attachment. Furthermore, a series of recent empirical studies show that access to care also creates new demand for female employment: increasing public spending on care is found to generate two-to-three times the number of new jobs per dollar than spending on sectors such as construction.
This research project report focuses on Mexico and builds on previous studies for Turkey, Ghana, and Tanzania by constructing a combined time-use and income-employment dataset for Mexico to evaluate the net effects a proposed childcare expansion could have on earnings and work hours and their concomitant impact on time and income poverty by gender, with results indicating that the employment creation achieved through increased social care spending reduces gender employment gaps while also helping to alleviate the twin deprivations of time and income poverty.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2021/2 | May 2021
The Impact of the Emergency Benefit on Poverty and Extreme Poverty in BrazilResearch Scholar Luiza Nassif-Pires, Luísa Cardoso, and Ana Luíza Matos de Oliveira analyze the importance of the “emergency benefit” (Auxílio Emergencial) in containing the increase in poverty and extreme poverty in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic. They find the emergency benefit mitigated the loss of income, brought the poverty rate to historically low levels, and reduced inequality: poverty gaps in terms of gender and (to a lesser degree) race narrowed in 2020. However, their simulations show that a planned reduction in transfer levels for 2021 will result in the emergency benefit providing substantially less social protection against loss of income than its more robust 2020 version.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Luiza Nassif Pires Luísa Cardoso Ana Luíza Matos de OliveiraRelated Topic(s):Region(s):Latin America
Working Paper No. 983 | February 2021
A Comparative Analysis for Sub-Saharan African CountriesIn this working paper, we analyze factors that may explain gender differences in the allocation of time to household production in sub-Saharan Africa. The study uses time use survey data to analyze the determinants of time spent on household production by husbands and wives in nuclear families in Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, and South Africa. We assume that the time spent by each spouse is a function of personal and household characteristics. A bivariate Tobit model is used to estimate the marginal impact of a set of key variables that figure recurrently in the literature on time allocation. We observe a high degree of variability in the results for the set of countries, which does not allow us to draw hard general conclusions. We do find some weak evidence that supports time availability and gender ideology theory as well as for the hypothesis that bargaining power plays a role in explaining the intrahousehold allocation of household production.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 967 | September 2020This paper assesses the quality of the statistical matching used in the LIMTIP estimates for Italy for 2008 and 2014. The match combines the 2008–9 and 2013–14 Italian Time Use Survey (IT-TUS) with the Italian data collected for the European Survey on Income and Living Conditions (IT-SILC) in 2009 and 2015. After the matching, the analysis of the joint distributions of the variables shows that the quality is good.
The preliminary results of the LIMTIP estimates in Italy display widespread time poverty, which translates into significant hidden poverty. The LIMTIP also reveals that the increase in the poverty rate between 2008 and 2014 was even higher that what standard poverty measures report.Download:Associated Program(s):The Distribution of Income and Wealth The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty The State of the US and World EconomiesAuthor(s):Erica AloèRelated Topic(s):Household production Italy Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP) Poverty Statistical matching Time useRegion(s):Europe
Public Policy Brief No. 153 | September 2020After spending over 6 percent of GDP responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Brazil has suffered among the worst per capita numbers in the world in terms of cases and deaths. In this policy brief, Luiza Nassif-Pires, Laura Carvalho, and Eduardo Rawet explore how stark inequalities along racial, regional, and class lines can help account for why the pandemic has had such a damaging impact on Brazil. Although they find that fiscal policy measures have so far neutralized the impact of the crisis with respect to income inequality, the existence of structural inequalities along racial lines in particular have resulted in an unequally shared public health burden. Broader policy changes are necessary for addressing dimensions of inequality that are rooted in structural racism.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Luiza Nassif Pires Laura Carvalho Eduardo RawetRelated Topic(s):Region(s):Latin America
Press Releases | May 2020
Working Paper No. 954 | April 2020
A Microeconometric AnalysisThis paper examines whether relative income and income inequality within reference groups affect household consumption. Using the explanations of consumption behavior based on Dusenberry’s relative income hypothesis, we test if household consumption levels in Turkey are affected by the household’s relative position and inequality in the reference group between 2005–12 by employing cross-sectional household-level data. We find that household consumption is negatively related to the relative income indicator after controlling for absolute income, and positively related to the income inequality of the reference group, as the literature suggests. The paper also shows that household indebtedness has a positive impact on household consumption when inequality in the reference group and the relative position of households are controlled for. We confirm that the results are not sensitive to chosen relative income indicators and income inequality.
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Public Policy Brief No. 149 | April 2020The costs of the COVID-19 pandemic—in terms of both the health risks and economic burdens—will be borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable segments of US society. In this public policy brief, Luiza Nassif-Pires, Laura de Lima Xavier, Thomas Masterson, Michalis Nikiforos, and Fernando Rios-Avila demonstrate that the COVID-19 crisis is likely to widen already-worrisome levels of income, racial, and gender inequality in the United States. Minority and low-income populations are more likely to develop severe infections that can lead to hospitalization and death due to COVID-19; they are also more likely to experience job losses and declines in their well-being.
The authors argue that our policy response to the COVID-19 crisis must target these unequally shared burdens—and that a failure to mitigate the regressive impact of the crisis will not only be unjust, it will prolong the pandemic and undermine any ensuing economic recovery efforts. As the authors note, we are in danger of falling victim to a vicious cycle: the pandemic and economic lockdown will worsen inequality; and these inequalities exacerbate the spread of the virus, not to mention further weaken the structure of the US economy.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 930 | May 2019This paper describes the application of a semiparametric approach, known as a varying coefficients model (Hastie and Tibshirani 1993), to implement a Oaxaca-Blinder type of decomposition in the presence of self-selection into treatment groups for a continuum of comparison groups. The flexibility of this methodology may allow for detecting heterogeneity of the role of endowment and coefficient effects when analyzing endogenous dose treatments. The methodology is then used to revisit the impact of obesity on wages (Cawley 2004), using body mass index (BMI) as the continuous group variable. The results suggest that body weight does have a negative impact on wages for white women, but the impact decreases for higher BMI levels. For white men, the impact is also negative and significant, but positive for low levels of BMI, which explains why they are not significant in the linear instrumental variables approach.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 928 | May 2019In the Western interpretation of democracy, governments exist in order to manage relations of property, with absence of property ownership leading to exclusion from participation in governance and, in many cases, absence of equal treatment before the law. Democratizing money will therefore ensure equal opportunity to the ownership of property, and thus full participation in the democratic governance of society, as well as equal access to the banking system, which finances the creation of capital via the creation of money. If the divergence between capital and labor—between rich and poor—is explained by the monopoly access of capitalists to finance, then reducing this divergence is crucially dependent on the democratization of money. Though the role of money and finance in determining inequality between capital and labor transcends any particular understanding of the process by which the creation of money leads to inequity, specific proposals for the democratization of money will depend on the explanation of how money comes into existence and how it supports capital accumulation.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Jan KregelRelated Topic(s):