The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper highlights how changes in the composition of demand affect income dispersion in the short run. We first document how the share of aggregate spending dedicated to labour-intensive goods and services shrinks (expands) during downturns (booms), and argue that this contributes to the observed pro-cyclicality of employment and output in labour-intensive industries. Using a two-sector general equilibrium model, we then assess how this demand composition channel influences the cyclical properties of the income distribution. Consistent with empirical evidence, we find income inequality to be countercyclical due to changes in the level of employment and (to a lesser extent) relative factor prices. The model also shows that wealth redistribution policies can potentially involve a trade-off between equality and output, depending on how they affect the composition of aggregate demand.