How to Fix Economic Inequality?

An Overview of Policies for the United States and Other High-Income Economies

For decades, a gap has been growing between the rich and poor in advanced economies, especially the United States. Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, costing over a million lives globally by the end of October 2020 and setting off the worst global recession in nearly a century. The people most vulnerable to a health and economic shock have been hit the hardest.

Now at a time of acute health and economic crisis, widening divisions are raising moral, social, economic, and political challenges. Many experts argue that longstanding US policies that widened inequality have also exacerbated the pandemic’s impact. As the United States and other countries strive to rebuild their economies, governments have an opening to alleviate unfair economic disparities and improve access to opportunities.

This guide draws together research from the world’s leading experts on inequality trends and causes within countries and a list of available policy options to mitigate the growing gap (mostly for the United States, with lessons applicable to other advanced countries).

Most of the research below comes from the Peterson Institute 2019 conference on “Combating Inequality,” later work from attending experts, and other PIIE publications. Read also “We Have the Tools to Reverse the Rise in Inequality,” by conference organizers Olivier Blanchard (PIIE) and Dani Rodrik (Harvard University), from their forthcoming book of essays by conference participants, Combating Inequality: Rethinking Government’s Role, to be published by MIT Press in 2021.

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