Trends in income inequality have returned to the center of development policy discussions. This emphasis is apparent in many areas, from the slogans of the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the public debate stimulated by Thomas Piketty's book, to the Bank's own adoption of an inequality-sensitive shared prosperity target.
In this policy research talk, Aart Kraay will provide new perspectives on these issues, based on his recent paper "Growth, Inequality and Social Welfare: Cross-Country Evidence" (joint with David Dollar and Tatjana Kleineberg). Drawing on a variety of data sources, the authors use social welfare functions that assign weights to individuals based on their income levels to assess how much recent changes in inequality matter for welfare.
In a large panel of industrial and developing countries over the past 40 years, they document that most of the variation in changes in social welfare is driven by differences in average growth performance. In contrast, changes in inequality in either direction have on average had much smaller impacts on trends in social welfare. The presentation will relate these findings to the Bank's new shared prosperity goal, and to the broader debate on inequality and growth.