Unequal Societies: Income Distribution and the Social Contract
Benabou, Roland. 2000. "Unequal Societies: Income Distribution and the Social Contract."
American Economic Review,
This paper develops a theory of inequality and the social contract aiming to explain how countries with similar economic and political "fundamentals" can sustain such different systems of social insurance, fiscal redistribution, and education finance as those, of the United States and Western Europe. With imperfect credit and insurance markets some redistributive policies can improve ex ante welfare, and this implies that their political support tends to decrease with inequality. Conversely, with credit constraints, lower redistribution translates into more persistent inequality; hence the potential for multiple steady states, with mutually reinforcing high inequality and low redistribution, or vice versa.
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Benabou, Roland (Princeton U and Centre, NBER, and CEPR)
D31: Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions
P16: Capitalist Systems: Political Economy
I22: Educational Finance
E62: Fiscal Policy