author={Océane Blomme and Jérôme Héricourt},
title={Inequality, Current Account Imbalances and Middle Incomes},
type={Working Papers},
This paper investigates the complex relationship between current account balance and income inequality, putting specific emphasis on the potential sources of non-linearities in the latter. Based on a dataset for 52 developed and developing countries over the period 1990-2019, we first show a one-standard-deviation increase in various income inequality indicators generates a decrease in the ratio of current account over GDP by -0.5 to -0.9 percentage points in developed countries, but no significant impact when the sample is expanded to include emerging and developing countries. We then show those average impacts are distorted along the distribution of economic and financial development variables: for those countries displaying low GDP per capita, low levels of financial deregulation and of capital account openness, additional income inequality actually improves the current account balance. Conversely, the impact of income inequality on current account is all the more negative that financial markets are bigger, more deregulated and more open. In addition, the decrease in the current account balance is 1.2 to 1.4 times more important in countries with higher financial development or more open capital account when the increase in inequality is driven by the income of top earners relative to the middle class rather than by the increase in top earners' incomes at the expense of the lowest percentiles of the distribution. Those results are robust to various robustness checks for endogeneity concerns, possible impact of the Great Financial Crisis, and variable definitions.
keywords={Current Account ; Finance ; Inequality ; Middle Class}