An econometric analysis of the bifurcation of within-country inequality trends in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1990–2011

The paper documents and explains the income inequality changes that have occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa over 1991-2011. After reviewing the causes of post-Independence income polarization, it shows that during the 2000s 17 countries recorded an inequality decline and 12 a rise. The paper then explores the determinants of this trend bifurcation by reviewing the changes recorded in a long list of inequality determinants and by testing their relevance by means of a multivariate macro-panel regression. The results indicate that the growth rate of GDP/capita is unrelated to inequality while its composition is closely associated with it. Improvements in the distribution of human capital improved inequality while lack of land reforms and high population growth increased it. Changes in global conditions had a mixed effect. While remittances and rising world agricultural prices appear to have been equalizing, rising FDI in extractive industries and a surge of terms of trade in resource-rich economies were regressive. ODA changes were statistically non-significant, but debt cancellation in HIPC-eligible countries reduced the Gini perceptibly. Domestic policy changes had a mixed effect. Where direct taxation and targeted social expenditure rose the impact on inequality was favourable. Among the macro-policies, trade liberalization was un-equalizing as it reduced the value added share of manufacturing, while a stable macroeconomy, fall in inflation and competitive exchange rate reduced income polarization. Exogenous shocks generated contrasting effects: the recent fall in HIV/AIDS incidence reduced inequality modestly, while conflict intensity increased it. Our estimates do not find a clear distributive effect of democratization. The paper concludes stressing the need to strengthen the informational basis to analyse various aspects of inequality, and to improve our understanding of the politics of distributive policies.

Issue Date:
Jan 01 2016
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
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Total Pages:

 Record created 2018-02-03, last modified 2018-02-03

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