Inequality

The Institute for New Economic Thinking takes a broad view of economic research and supports it in many ways: through its main grant program, through working groups it organizes, and via conferences, panels, and other smaller gatherings of scholars across the globe.

Institute scholars normally publish their work in journals and books. While many – but far from all – of this work appears in working papers sponsored by the Institute and other leading research forums, the Institute also attempts to make its research results accessible to a wider public on its website. Below is a sampling of interviews featuring Institute scholars explaining the significance of their research in non-technical terms.

Lance Taylor: What Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers Don’t Tell You About Income Inequality

Featured: Huffington Post

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening —picture than we’ve had before.  Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society. Read more

James K. Boyce: New Research Shows Pollution Inequality in America is Even Worse Than Income Inequality

Featured: Huffington Post | AlterNet | Truth-Out | Mike Norman Economics

James K. Boyce, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, directs the environment program of the Political Economy Research Institute, where his research focuses on the effects of inequalities of wealth and power and the dynamics of conflict. His work includes the Toxic 100 Air Polluters, an index identifying the top U.S. air polluters among the world's largest corporations. A 2009 special report by USA Today drew upon Dr. Boyce’s work, along with EPA data, to create a database exposing air toxicity in schools across the country. In a new working paper for the Institute for New Economic Thinking's Political Economy of Distribution Series, he collaborates with Klara Zwickl and Michael Ash to compare inequalities of exposure to industrial air pollution in U.S. states and congressional districts among the poor and non-poor, as well as whites and non-whites. They find that in America, inequality is in the very air we breathe. Read more

Piketty and thinking about economics

There is a new economics rock-star touring the US by all accounts, and his name is Thomas Piketty. More precisely, the star of the show is Picketty's Capital in the Twenty-First century which is a 700-page volume on wealth distribution in 30 countries over decades and centuries of data. Read more

Inequalities by Race and Gender in the Earnings of Women of Color

Project Leader: 

This project examines inequalities by gender and race in the earnings of women of color.  It investigates how gender and race affect the earnings of African American, Latina, and Asian American women in the United States over five decades, from 1970 to 2010.  Using decennial census data, the study seeks to measure the separate and intersectional effects of gender and race and the causes of these—whether from discrimination, differences in worker characteristics, or segregation in different jobs.  It will address policies that can reduce these inequalities, and it will offer a comparative analysis among these women to examine patterns in these inequities, the causes of them, and remedies to reduce them.  

The Myth of Maximizing Shareholder Value

In 2010, the 500 largest companies in the United States, otherwise known as The Fortune 500, generated $10.7 trillion in sales, reaped a whopping $702 billion in profits, and employed 24.9 million people around the world.

Historically this has been good news. After all, when these corporations have invested in the productive capabilities of their U.S. employees, Americans have typically enjoyed plentiful well paying and stable jobs. That was the case a half century ago.

Unfortunately, as Bill Lazonick points out in the interview below, it’s not the case today. Read more

Women Need Support As They Join the Global Workforce

It’s no secret that women across the globe are working harder than ever today. But according to United States diplomats, global economic institutions aren’t working hard enough to help them navigate their way through an increasingly challenging world. Read more

Inequality in China - INET Hong Kong

Breakout panel on "Inequality in China" at the Institute for New Economic Thinking's "Changing of the Guard?" conference in Hong Kong. Featured panelists Albert Park, Scott Rozelle, Dali Yang, Junsen Zhang, and INET Grantee Steven Durlauf.

Between Free and Forced Labor: An innovative new paper by INET grantee Suresh Naidu

Economists differentiate free and forced labor as if there were no room in between. Yet history shows many examples of "intermediate" labor market institutions that fall outside this simple dichotomy. These historical labor markets have rarely looked like the textbook free markets.  Read more

Statistical Physics Approach to Income and Wealth Distribution

Project Leader: 

This project deals with income and wealth inequality, financial instability, and the distribution of energy consumption around the world.  It is guided by ideas from statistical physics, such as spontaneous development of wide distributions in an ensemble of initially equal agents.  Maximization of entropy in partitioning of a limited resource among many agents leads to the wide exponential distributions, often confirmed by empirical data.  The research will focus on mathematical modeling of the two-class structure of income distribution (1% vs. 99%) and the effect of growing inequality on dynamics of money flow in the system.