Call for papers
Kuznets at 70 – a symposium on inequality and structural transformation

Seven decades after the Kuznets curve was first conceived by Professor Simon Kuznets, the concept still has a hold on development discourse. Its simplest and starkest statement is that as development proceeds, inequality first increases and then decreases—the famous ‘inverse-U’.

Kuznets’ hypothesis continues to be subjected to empirical assessment as new data becomes available. Over the years, the analysis and the debate has moved from the observed time path of inequality to the mechanisms that shape the evolution of inequality, including: the structural transformation of an economy from a rural/agricultural base to an urban/industrial future; technological change, as it alters the relative productivity of factors of production; openness and globalization; and the political economy of redistributive forces as society evolves.

There has been much discussion of whether the Kuznets curve is an ‘iron law’ and whether and what sorts of policies influence the trajectory of inequality. At the same time, the Kuznets curve as a metaphor has shaped the discourse beyond national inequality, to the evolution of global inequality and to areas outside inequality, such as the environmental Kuznets curve or gender inequality.

With this rich history and background, the time is right to examine the Kuznets curve literature broadly construed, to take stock of what has been learned, and to identify new and emerging questions, particularly on how policy can address inequality. UNU-WIDER, Cornell University, and Kings College London propose to hold a symposium on this topic in Helsinki on 12-13 September 2024. Without in any way constraining the scope of contributions, here are some areas which papers might cover:

•    The national Kuznets curve in light of new data
•    The global evolution of inequality in a Kuznetsian perspective
•    Structural transformation, globalization, and the Kuznets curve
•    Political economy and a Kuznetsian evolution of inequality
•    The Kuznets metaphor beyond national inequality, in environment, gender, or beyond

Accepted papers will be considered for inclusion in an edited volume on the topic—edited by Kunal Sen, Ravi Kanbur, and Andy Sumner.

For more information on how to submit your paper or proposal, download the complete call for papers here.