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.
Jonathan Ostry, Andrew Berg, and Siddharth Kothari
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
Do structural reforms that aim to boost potential output also change the distribution of income? We shed light on this question by looking at the broad patterns in the cross-country data covering advanced, emerging-market, and low-income countries. Our main finding is that there is indeed evidence of a growth-equity tradeoff for some important reforms. Financial and capital account liberalization seem to increase both growth and inequality, as do some measures of liberalization of current account transactions. Reforms aimed at strengthening the impartiality of and adherence to the legal system seem to entail no growth-equity tradeoff-such reforms are good for growth and do not worsen inequality. The results for our index of network reforms as well as our measure of the decentralization of collective labor bargaining are the weakest and least robust, potentially due to data limitations. We also ask: If some structural reforms worsen inequality, to what degree does this offset the growth gains from the reforms themselves? While higher inequality does dampen the growth benefits, the net effect on growth remains positive for most reform indicators.