Inequality in the Developing World

Inequality has emerged as a key development challenge. It holds implications for economic growth and redistribution and translates into power asymmetries that can endanger human rights, create conflict, and embed social exclusion and chronic poverty. For these reasons, it underpins intense public and academic debates and has become a dominant policy concern within many countries and in all multilateral agencies. It is at the core of the 17 goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

This book contributes to this important discussion by presenting assessments of the measurement and analysis of global inequality by leading inequality scholars, aligning these to comprehensive reviews of inequality trends in five of the world’s largest developing countries — Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa. Each is a persistently high or newly high inequality context and, with the changing global inequality situation as context, country chapters investigate the main factors shaping their different inequality dynamics. 

Particular attention is on how broader societal inequalities arising outside of the labour market have intersected with the rapidly changing labour market milieus of the last few decades. Collectively these chapters provide a nuanced discussion of key distributive phenomena like the high concentration of income among the most affluent people, gender inequalities and social mobility. Substantive tax and social benefit policies that each country implemented to mitigate these inequality dynamics are assessed in detail.  

The book takes lessons from these contexts back into the global analysis of inequality and social mobility and the policies needed to address inequality.  

Table of contents
  1. Setting the scene
    Carlos Gradín, Murray Leibbrandt, Finn Tarp
  2. What might explain today’s conflicting narratives on global inequality?
    Martin Ravallion
    More Working Paper | What might explain today’s conflicting narratives on global inequality?
  3. Comparing global inequality of income and wealth
    James Davies, Anthony F. Shorrocks
    More Working Paper | Comparing global inequality of income and wealth
  4. Empirical challenges comparing inequality across countries: The case of middle-income countries from the LIS database
    Daniele Checchi, Andrej Cupak, Teresa Munzi
    More Working Paper | Empirical challenges comparing inequality across countries
  5. Brazil: What are the main drivers of income distribution changes in the new millennium?
    Marcelo Neri
    More Working Paper | What are the main drivers of Brazilian income distribution changes in the new millennium?
  6. China: Structural change, transition, rent-seeking and corruption, and government policy
    Shi Li, Terry Sicular, Finn Tarp
    More Working Paper | Inequality in China
  7. India: Inequality trends and dynamics, the bird’s-eye and the granular perspectives
    Hai‐Anh H. Dang, Peter Lanjouw
    More Working Paper | Inequality trends and dynamics in India
  8. Mexico: Labour markets and fiscal redistribution 1989–2014
    Raymundo M. Campos-Vázquez, Nora Lustig, John Scott
    More Working Paper | Inequality in Mexico
  9. South Africa: The top-end, labour markets, fiscal redistribution and the persistence of very high inequality
    Murray Leibbrandt, Vimal Ranchhod, Pippa Green
    More Working Paper | Taking stock of South African income inequality
  10. Economic inequality and subjective wellbeing across the world
    Andrew E. Clark, Conchita D'Ambrosio
    More Working Paper | Economic inequality and subjective well-being across the world
  11. China and the United States: Different economic models but similarly low levels of socioeconomic mobility
    Roy van der Weide, Ambar Narayan
    More Working Paper | China and the United States
  12. From manufacturing-led export growth to a twenty-first century inclusive growth strategy: Explaining the demise of a successful growth model and what to do about it
    Joseph E. Stiglitz
    More Working Paper | From manufacturing-led export growth to a twenty-first-century inclusive growth strategy
  13. Synthesis and policy implications: Inequality in the developing world
    Carlos Gradín, Murray Leibbrandt, Finn Tarp
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Academics are increasingly realizing that too much inequality seriously threatens the pace and sustainability of development. This book, authored by some of the best experts in the field, might convince decision makers, especially those in the developing world, that the forces pushing up inequality need to be contained. François Bourguignon, Paris School of Economics, Former Chief Economist of the World Bank

A wide-ranging exploration of the nature, causes and consequences of changes in inequality in some of the world’s largest countries, this important book by some of the leading experts combines new data, new methods and new insights to paint a comprehensive picture of inequality in the developing world — a must-read. Francisco H.G. Ferreira, Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies, London School of Economics

In this engaging collection, leading experts address essential questions about the interplay between poverty, inequality, economic development, and public policy. The five country case studies – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa – and the six cross-national chapters present meticulous empirical work based on innovative measurement strategies and diverse, high-quality, data sources. The editors effectively synthesize the volume’s complex findings about inequality’s trends and drivers, and impart evidence-based policy lessons that should capture the attention of both scholars and practitioners around the world.  Janet C. Gornick, Director, Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality, City University of New York