The contrast is vivid. While the majority of people in the industrial world and some in the developing world enjoy unprecedented affluence, a far greater number of people in the low-income countries live in abject poverty. Although several developing countries are achieving rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, most formerly centrally planned countries are struggling to implement market-oriented reforms in the midst of economic deterioration and rising poverty. The paramount importance of reducing poverty worldwide is forcing economists and policymakers to look at how income distribution and economic growth interact.
The essays in this volume grew out of a 1995 conference sponsored by the International Monetary Fund. The contributors are scholars and policymakers from academic institutions, governments, and international organizations. The questions discussed include: How does income distribution interact with economic growth in the short run and the long run? To what extent can government use transfer programs to increase the incomes of the poor? How can government use social programs to help the poor increase their income-earning capacity? Does distributional inequality create an obstacle to long-term poverty reduction? Alternatively, is distributional inequality a necessary means of achieving economic growth? Generally, the contributors agree that there need not be a trade-off between growth and equity in the long run. However, attempts by government to influence income distribution through large-scale tax and transfer programs can have a negative impact on growth.