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Income Inequalities in Perspective

Working Paper #290

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Vladimir Popov

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Income and wealth inequalities in most countries – in the West, the former ‘communist’ economies and in the developing world – have been on the rise in the last three decades with some notable exceptions. Inequalities in the 19th century (Figure 1) were much higher than before the Industrial Revolution. Following the rise of workers’ movements in the West and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the growth of inequalities of the previous century was reversed for over half a century until the 1980s as the threat of the spread of communism inspired welfarist redistributive reforms, giving capitalism a more human face. Such checks and balances have been greatly weakened in recent decades, even though improved economic performance in many developing countries, including sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade, contributed to some convergence of incomes between rich and poor countries. 

About the Authors

Jomo Kwame Sundaram
Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development
United Nations

Jomo Kwame Sundaram has been Assistant Director General and Coordinator for Economic and Social Development (ADG-ES), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since 2012. He was Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) from 2005 until 2012, and Research Coordinator for the G24 Intergovernmental Group on International Monetary Affairs and Development from 2006 until 2012. He has received several honours and awards for his work including the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

Vladimir Popov
Senior Economic Officer and Inter-regional Adviser
UNDESA

VLADIMIR POPOV is working for DESA, UN, since 2009 as a Senior Economic Officer and an Interregional Adviser. He was a professor in New Economic School in Moscow and in Carleton University in Ottawa. He is the author and editor of 12 books and numerous articles in the Journal of Comparative Economics, Comparative Economic Studies, World Development, Post Communist Economies, New Left Review and others academic journals, as well as essays in the media. His new book “Mixed Fortunes: Economic History of China, Russia and the West” is published in April 2014 by Oxford University Press. Personal website: www.carleton.ca/~vpopov/ 

Publication Information

Type Working Papers
Program Global Social Justice
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Posted 05/05/15