Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, INTERNATIONAL STUDIES (oxfordre.com/internationalstudies). (c) International Studies Association and Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 11 December 2019

Summary and Keywords

The nature of the relationship between economic development and income inequality has long been the subject of considerable debate. Economic growth has very different effects on poverty, depending on a country’s level of income inequality. In high inequality countries, economic growth that raises the overall level of income disproportionately tends to benefit the rich, whereas policies that encourage economic growth while reducing income inequality will greatly accelerate the achievement of poverty reduction goals. Thus, understanding how income inequality and economic development are linked is important for establishing economic growth policies that reduce poverty. The literature on the economic development–income inequality nexus in industrial society places emphasis on the causes of current social inequality. The central and most cited paper in the literature is S. Kuznets’s “Economic Growth and Income Inequality” (1955), which proposed an inverted U-shaped relationship between development and inequality over the course of industrialization. Some scholars have tried to build upon Kuznets’s theory by focusing on his claim that income inequality is a function of the nature of regulations put on the market. Other studies deal with the importance of studying the relationship between democracy and inequality, the effect of the nature of the government on shaping inequality compared to industrialization, and the implications of globalization for income inequality. This overview of the literature shows that there is little true consensus on the relationship between inequality and development and highlights two major areas for improvement: measurement and data quality.

Keywords: economic development, income inequality, poverty, poverty reduction, S. Kuznets, industrialization, democracy, globalization, measurement, data quality

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.