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Inequality, Aging, and the Middle-Income Trap

Publication | October 2017
Inequality, Aging, and the Middle-Income Trap

Inequality and income distribution are key drivers of the middle-income trap, while the issue of aging is less important.

Based on required growth rate and actual growth rate, we propose a method to construct measures to indicate the probability of a country escaping the middle-income trap (MIT). We model this probability using 1960–2015 cross-country data, focusing on the roles of income distribution or inequality and aging. We found that: (i) both the level of and the change in inequality are important drivers of MIT, with surprisingly large impacts; (ii) relative to income distribution, aging is found to be much less important in terms of both magnitude and statistical significance; and (iii) total factor productivity growth and structural transformation are fundamental drivers for an economy to escape the MIT. However, earlier industrialization may not generate the expected impact on growth, as the probability of escaping the MIT is found to display a U-pattern relationship with industrialization.

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