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Income Inequality, Development, and Dependence: A Reconsideration

Arthur S. Alderson and François Nielsen
American Sociological Review
Vol. 64, No. 4 (Aug., 1999), pp. 606-631
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657259
Page Count: 26
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Income Inequality, Development, and Dependence: A Reconsideration
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Abstract

We reconsider the role of foreign investment in income inequality in light of recent critiques that question the results of quantitative cross-national research on foreign capital penetration. We analyze an unbalanced cross-national data set in which countries contribute different numbers of observations, with a maximum of 88 countries and 488 observations, dated from 1967 to 1994. Random-effects regression models that control for unmeasured country heterogeneity are used to investigate effects of foreign capital penetration on inequality (measured as the Gini coefficient) against the background of an internal-developmental model of inequality. We adapt Firebaugh's (1992, 1996) critique of the literature on the effect of foreign investment on economic growth to the study of income inequality and find that the stock of foreign direct investment has an effect on inequality that is independent of the mechanisms identified by Firebaugh. We explore Tsai's (1995) claim that the effect of foreign capital penetration is spurious and find that foreign stock has a significant positive effect on inequality net of region-specific differences. An alternative interpretation of the findings of the foreign investment/inequality literature is discussed in light of the discovery of an inverted-U shaped relationship between income inequality and foreign investment stock per capita. We conclude that thinking on the relationship between income inequality and investment dependence should be revised in light of an investment-development path relating the inflow and outflow of foreign capital to economic development.

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