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2017 Inequality and...? Lecture Series

Inequality and Technology

Omar Arias , The World Bank
6 December 2017

There is consistent evidence that technology, particularly automation, is affecting the skill content of jobs and driving inequality in labor markets of developed economies. How does the skill content of jobs change as countries develop?

Is automation also generating polarization in labor markets of developing countries? Recent analysis using labor force surveys, as reported in the World Development Report 2016, suggests that similar processes of labor market polarization are emerging in some developing countries. The trends depend on whether the evolution of shares or absolute levels of employment in middle-wage, middle-skill jobs are examined.

This lecture will discuss this evidence, its possible drivers, what could be expected in the future as new technologies continue to evolve and become cheaper, and draw implications for skills building and other social policies. a nutshell


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Inequality and Technology (Introduction)


Inequality and Technology (Presentation)






Inequality and The Better Life Initiative

Martine Durand, OECD
15 November 2017

What makes for a good life? While the richness of human experience cannot be captured in numbers alone, it is important that the statistics shaping public policy reflect both people’s material living conditions, and the quality of their lives.

One of the strengths of the Better Life Initiative is in providing a diverse range of internationally comparable statistics on well-being – from health and wealth, to jobs and housing, safety and civic engagement.  Yet national averages disguise a great deal of variation in people’s experiences within OECD countries – and it is important to understand how life is going for people, not just on average, but across all groups in society.

Indeed, inequality is an important feature shaping the well-being of societies, including disparities associated with age, gender, education and income. The 2017 edition of the OECD report How’s Life? highlights the many facets of inequality, showing that gaps in people’s achievements and opportunities extend right across the different dimensions of well-being. a nutshell


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Inequality and The Better Life Initiative (Introduction)


Inequality and The Better Life Initiative (Presentation)






Inequality and Economic History

Guido Alfani, Bocconi University
12 October 2017

Recent research in economic history has unearthed previously unknown facts about the long-term trends in inequality. We now have, for at least some areas of Europe, time series of key inequality indicators from ca. 1300.

These new data are changing the way in which we perceive economic inequality not only in the past, but even today – as a key lesson from history, is that economic inequality (especially, but not only, of wealth) has a marked tendency for increasing over time, and only catastrophes on the scale of the Black Death or the World Wars managed to bring it down, albeit temporarily.

This lecture will provide an overview of these recent acquisitions, and will debate why they are relevant for current debates. a nutshell


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Inequality and Economic History (Introduction)


Inequality and Economic History (Presentation)






Inequality and Trade Unions

Ronald Janssen, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD
10 July 2017

International economic institutions such as the OECD and the IMF are increasingly paying attention to the problem of high and rising inequalities and its causes and consequences. It is however not so obvious whether the policy solutions these institutions are recommending are adequate and comprehensive.

In the analysis carried out in this lecture, particular attention will be paid to the role of labour markets institutions such as collective bargaining and other mechanisms of wage formation. In addition, recent developments that focus on the role and the causes of falling labour shares are discussed.


 a nutshell


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Inequality and Trade Unions (Introduction)


Inequality and Trade Unions (Presentation)







Inequality and Macroeconomics

Benjamin Moll, Princeton University
17 May 2017

Does the existence of inequality change how we should think about macroeconomic policies? Are recessions more severe in more unequal countries?

Traditionally, macroeconomics had no role for inequality. But better data and more powerful computing methods mean that we are now able to study the rich interactions between inequality and the macroeconomy that characterize our world. On the one hand, inequality shapes macroeconomic aggregates; on the other hand, macroeconomic shocks and policies also affect inequality.

Incorporating the enormous heterogeneity observed at the micro level, and in particular the large disparities in income and wealth, often delivers strikingly different implications for monetary and fiscal policies and allows us to study their distributional implications.



 a nutshell


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Inequality and Macroeconomics (Introduction)


Inequality and Macroeconomics (Presentation)







Inequality and the Rentiers

Philippe Askenazy, CNRS
2 May 2017

Why do conservative governments, from the UK to Japan, accept and even promote the creation of or the increase in the minimum wage? Why is a large share of the workforce considered as low-productivity while their competencies are improving and their work is intensifying?Why are profits still growing in the wake of economic liberalization?

This lecture proposes a personal global answer to such puzzling questions. Various determinants of rent-sharing in modern capitalism are disentangled. I stress two mechanisms: the triumph of proprietarism and the misleading naturalization of labor earning and productivity inequality.



 a nutshell


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Inequality and the Rentiers (Introduction)


Inequality and the Rentiers (Presentation)







Inequality and Personal Responsibility

Francisco Ferreira, The World Bank

27 April 2017

Are all forms of inequality equally bad?  Modern views of social justice suggest that one should distinguish between income differences that result from the exercise of personal responsibility or effort, and those that arise from differences in circumstances beyond the control of individuals, such as race, gender, family background or country of birth. These views have shaped a vibrant literature on the definition and measurement of inequality of opportunity. This lecture will review both the theory and the empirics of measuring inequality of opportunity, and explore implications  for intergenerational mobility, poverty, and our very notion of development policy objectives.

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Inequality and Personal Responsibility (Introduction)


Inequality and Personal Responsibility (Presentation)







Inequality and Climate Change

Stephan Klasen, University of Göttingen
29 March 2017

Equity issues are central to policy debates about climate change. But what is the role of inequality between and within nations on carbon emissions?

The first part of the talk reviews recent findings on this issue. The second part of the talk examines barriers to first-best climate policy.

Economics has offered clear and convincing first-best solutions to the problem of climate change, but they do not play a central role in the setting of climate policy. Drawing on insights from the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, the talk argues that, for political economy reasons, there is little chance of enacting the economists’ first-best solution.

The talk then discusses what this means for global and European climate policy, including the Paris Agreement.

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Inequality and Climate Change (Introduction)


Inequality and Climate Change (Presentation)







Inequality and Child Development

Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago

23 February 2017

Children face very different chances of getting ahead in life depending on the circumstances of their birth. Parenting and its role in the diverging destinies of rich and poor children are discussed in this lecture. Inequality begins at home. It develops from the differences in the ways advantaged and disadvantaged parents interact with their children. Traditional policy interventions fail to attack the root cause of achievement gaps. To equalize the playing field, governments may need to invest in parents so parents can better invest in their children. Unfortunately, large-scale interventions typically yield modest effect sizes at best and often do not even change children’s skills in the long term. Understanding what motivates parents to invest in their children could have a major impact on the design of policies to reduce inequality in children’s skill development.

   a nutshell


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Inequality and Child Development (Introduction)


Inequality and Child Development (Presentation)







Inequality and Inequity

François Bourguignon, Paris School of Economics
18 January 2017

In economics, inequality is most often defined by how unequal the resources that people can live on are. In contrast, inequity refers to the fact that people are not being offered the same possibilities of generating those resources, even though they might all expend the same efforts. The former type of inequality is often called ‘inequality of outcomes’ whereas the latter corresponds to ‘inequality of opportunity’. This lecture will focus on the crucial distinction between these two concepts of inequality, showing that measuring them calls for different methods. In addition, correcting them may not conform to the same social objectives or have the same impact on the functioning of the economy. The two approaches may not rely on the same policy instruments. At the same time, however, the two concepts are complementary in several respects.

  a nutshell


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Inequality and Inequity (Intoduction)


Inequality and Inequity (Presentation)