Structural change and income inequality – Agricultural development and inter-sectoral dualism in the developing world, 1960–2010

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Abstract

Structural change consists of the long-term changes in the sectoral composition of output and employment. We introduce a structural change perspective to the study of income inequality in 27 countries of the developing world for the period 1960–2010. The service sector has become the main employer, but the agricultural sector is central to the income distribution because poverty is mostly rural, and the labor surplus is high. We decompose the sectoral composition of aggregate labor productivity at the country level, divide the countries into agrarian, dual (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and mature economies and use the inter-sectoral productivity gap to test the effect of structural change on income inequality. We confirm increases in agricultural productivity everywhere and find that the inter-sectoral gap is positively associated with income inequality. The effect is negligible in agrarian and advanced economies but powerful in dual beginner economies: an increase of 1% in the inter-sectoral gap increases income inequality by 0.5%. The effect peters out in dual intermediate economies and disappears completely in dual advanced economies. Finally, redistribution has been the key to compensating the losers in the income changes, particularly for those entering the non-agricultural economy.

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  • Economic History
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalOASIS. Observatorio de Analisis de los Sistemas Internacionales
Volume23
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 14
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes