Revealed: how the wealth gap holds back economic growth

OECD report rejects trickle-down economics, noting ‘sizeable and statistically negative impact’ of income inequality

By , economic editor, The Guardian

The west’s leading economic thinktank on Tuesday dismissed the concept of trickle-down economics as it found that the UK economy would have been more than 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since the 1980s.

Publishing its first clear evidence of the strong link between inequality and growth, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development proposed higher taxes on the rich and policies aimed at improving the lot of the bottom 40% of the population, identified by Ed Miliband as the “squeezed middle”.

Trickle-down economics was a central policy for Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, with the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US confident that all groups would benefit from policies designed to weaken trade unions and encourage wealth creation.

The OECD said that the richest 10% of the population now earned 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10%, up from seven times in the 1980s. However, the result had been slower, not faster, growth.

It concluded that “income inequality has a sizeable and statistically negative impact on growth, and that redistributive policies achieving greater equality in disposable income has no adverse growth consequences.

“Moreover, it [the data collected from the thinktank’s 34 rich country members] suggests it is inequality at the bottom of the distribution that hampers growth.”

According to the OECD, rising inequality in the two decades after 1985 shaved nine percentage points off UK growth between 1990 and 2000. The economy expanded by 40% during the 1990s and 2000s but would have grown by almost 50% had inequality not risen. Reducing income inequality in Britain to the level of France would increase growth by nearly 0.3 percentage points over a 25-year period, with a cumulated gain in GDP at the end of the period in excess of 7%.

“These findings have relevant implications for policymakers concerned about slow growth and rising inequality,” the paper said.

Read more ⇒ the guardian
See more ⇒ http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/dec/09/revealed-wealth-gap-oecd-report

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