Panel: The Various Dimensions of Inequality: How Studies of Labor Market-Related Inequality Can Inform Public Policy
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 6, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Taos (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Pelin Sekerler Richiardi, University of California, Berkeley
Panel Chairs:  Caroline Danielson, Public Policy Institute of California
Discussants:  Sarah Bruch, University of Iowa

Multidimensional Determinants of Welfare and Inequality: The Role of Employment
Pelin Sekerler Richiardi, University of California, Berkeley

One of the challenges that public policymakers face is increased inequality. Understanding this phenomenon is essential for policy-making as it might have adverse economic and social effects on societies and lead to instability. Analyzing and addressing inequality requires an extensive approach, including its various facets ranging from income to employment. Bringing together economists and sociologists from different institutions, chaired by Professor James Galbraith (University of Texas), with Uma Rani, senior researcher (International Labour Organization) as the discussant, this panel aims at analyzing how the definition of inequality can impact policy options, and how policies might influence inequality trends. Using different large datasets on various regions and countries (Europe, less-developed countries, and China), the papers in this panel examine inequality by focusing on its links with different components of the labor market. Adopting a broader perspective, the panel aims at offering new insight into practical analysis tools for facilitating policy-making. In this regard, the first paper, from economist Pelin Sekerler Richiardi (UC Berkeley), focuses on the substance of inequality. It underlines the importance of including multiple aspects of human life, such as health but also employment, in the definition of inequality. Based on European surveys, it shows how taking into account different dimensions might lead to different interpretations of the effects of the 2008 Great Recession. The method proposed for combining the dimensions also offers a tool for policymakers to adjust the importance they are assigning to each of them and determine the impact of such choices. The second paper, from sociologist Anthony Roberts (UC Riverside), insists on the role of labor market institutions and examines how labor regulation (both legally and in practice) can mediate the impact of globalization on increasing inequality. Based on data on a large number of less-developed countries, the paper argues that interrelations between globalization, labor market regulation and inequality are complex and urges for a broader approach highlighting the changes on institutions imposed by globalization. The third paper, from economist Wenjie Zhang (University of Texas), focuses on pay inequality in China from 1987 to 2012, by decomposing it into its between-province and between-sector components. Based on this information, it examines the place of this country in Kuznets curve, which posits an inverse U-shaped relation between industrialization and inequality. In the context of a new industrialization plan announced by the new administration in response to increasing inequality, this study aims at offering insight about the possible outcomes of such a move. Making decisions with limited resources is a challenge for policy-making. The need for a better understanding of relations between the policies implemented and changes in inequalities, together with tools allowing policymakers to see the impact of their decisions is urgent. By focusing on different aspects of relations between policies, labor market and inequality, these papers are complementary in providing resources for more adequate policy response to increasing inequality. As such, they crosscut the areas of “Poverty and Income Policy” and “Impact of Politics on the Policy Process”.
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