Milanovic, Branko

Poverty and Inequality Unit, Development Research Group, World Bank
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Income Distribution; Inequality; Globalization
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Poverty and Inequality Unit, Development Research Group, World Bank
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Last updated February 1, 2023
Lead economist in World Bank Research Department in the unit dealing with poverty and income inequality;  College Park professor at the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland. He was a long-term visiting profesor at the School for Advanced International Studies in Washington (1997-2007), and senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2003-05). He is the author of numerous articles on methodology and empirics of global income distribution and effects of globalization. His most recent book The Haves and the Have-nots:  A Brief  and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality, was published in December 2010, and translated in seven languages.
Citations 436 Scopus

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 37
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    Can We Discern the Effect of Globalization on Income Distribution? Evidence from Household Surveys
    (Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-01) Milanovic, Branko
    New data derived directly from household surveys are used to examine the effects of globalization on income distribution in poor and rich countries. The article looks at the impact of openness and of direct foreign investment on relative income shares across the entire income distribution. It finds strong evidence that at low average income levels, the income share of the poor is smaller in countries that are more open to trade. As national income levels rise, the incomes of the poor and the middle class rise relative to the income of the rich. The article explains why using the trade to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio in purchasing power parity terms, as favored by some analysts, is inappropriate in studies of the effect of trade on income distribution.
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    Global Income Distribution : From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-12) Lakner, Christoph ; Milanovic, Branko
    The paper presents a newly compiled and improved database of national household surveys between 1988 and 2008. In 2008, the global Gini index is around 70.5 percent having declined by approximately 2 Gini points over this twenty year period. When it is adjusted for the likely under-reporting of top incomes in surveys by using the gap between national accounts consumption and survey means in combination with a Pareto-type imputation of the upper tail, the estimate is a much higher global Gini of almost 76 percent. With such an adjustment the downward trend in the Gini almost disappears. Tracking the evolution of individual country-deciles shows the underlying elements that drive the changes in the global distribution: China has graduated from the bottom ranks, modifying the overall shape of the global income distribution in the process and creating an important global "median" class that has transformed a twin-peaked 1988 global distribution into an almost single-peaked one now. The "winners" were country-deciles that in 1988 were around the median of the global income distribution, 90 percent of whom in terms of population are from Asia. The "losers" were the country-deciles that in 1988 were around the 85th percentile of the global income distribution, almost 90 percent of whom in terms of population are from mature economies.
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    Turnover in Power as a Restraint on Investing in Influence: Evidence from the Postcommunist Transition
    ( 2010) Milanovic, Branko ; Hoff, Karla ; Horowitz, Shale
    We develop and implement a method for measuring the frequency of changes in power among distinct leaders and ideologically distinct parties that is comparable across political systems. We find that in the postcommunist countries, more frequent changes in power in the early years of transition are associated with better governance in the later years. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that more frequent turnover in power lowers the returns to firms seeking to buy political influence: i.e,. that government turnover serves as a restraint on investing in influence regardless of the ideology of the government.
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    Inside Inequality in the Arab Republic of Egypt : Facts and Perceptions across People, Time, and Space
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2014-04-02) Verme, Paolo ; Milanovic, Branko ; Al-Shawarby, Sherine ; El Tawila, Sahar ; Gadallah, May ; A. El-Majeed, Enas Ali
    This book joins four papers prepared in the framework of the Egypt inequality study financed by the World Bank. The first paper prepared by Sherine Al-Shawarby reviews the studies on inequality in Egypt since the 1950s with the double objective of illustrating the importance attributed to inequality through time and of presenting and compare the main published statistics on inequality. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such a comprehensive review is carried. The second paper prepared by Branko Milanovic turns to the global and spatial dimensions of inequality. The objective here is to put Egypt inequality in the global context and better understand the origin and size of spatial inequalities within Egypt using different forms of measurement across regions and urban and rural areas. The Egyptian society remains deeply divided across space and in terms of welfare and this study unveils some of the hidden features of this inequality. The third paper prepared by Paolo Verme studies facts and perceptions of inequality during the period 2000-2009, the period that preceded the Egyptian revolution. The objective of this part is to provide some initial elements that could explain the apparent mismatch between inequality measured with household surveys and inequality aversion measured by values surveys. No such study has been carried out before in the Middle-East and North-Africa (MENA) region and this seemed a particular important and timely topic to address in the light of the unfolding developments in the Arab region. The fourth paper prepared by Sahar El Tawila, May Gadallah and Enas Ali A. El-Majeed assesses the state of poverty and inequality among the poorest villages of Egypt. The paper attempts to explain the level of inequality in an effort to disentangle those factors that derive from household abilities from those factors that derive from local opportunities. This is the first time that such study is conducted in Egypt. The book should be of interest to any observer of the political and economic evolution of the Arab region in the past few years and to poverty and inequality specialists that wish to have a deeper understanding of the distribution of incomes in Egypt and other countries in the MENA region.
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    Is Inequality in Africa Really Different?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-11) Milanovic, Branko
    High inequality in Africa is something of a paradox: Africa should be a low-inequality continent according to the Kuznets hypothesis (because African countries are poor and agriculture-based), and also because land (the main asset) is widely shared. The author's hypothesis is that African inequality is politically determined. Yet in the empirical analysis, despite the introduction of several political variables, there is still an inequality-increasing "Africa effect" linked to ethnic fractionalization. The politics, however, may work through ethnic fractionalization, which provides an easy and secure basis for the formation of political groups. Although this is a plausible explanation, it is not fully satisfactory, and the author criticizes it in the concluding section.
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    Decomposing World Income Distribution : Does the World Have a Middle Class?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-03) Milanovic, Branko ; Yitzhaki, Shlomo
    Using national income and expenditure distribution data from 119 countries, the authors decompose total income inequality between the individuals in the world, by continent and by "region" (countries grouped by income level). They use a Gini decomposition that allows for an exact breakdown (without a residual term) of the overall Gini by recipients. Looking first at income inequality in income between countries is more important than inequality within countries. Africa, Latin America, and Western Europe and North America are quite homogeneous continent, with small differences between countries (so that most of the inequality on these continents is explained by inequality within countries). Next the authors divide the world into three groups: the rich G7 countries (and those with similar income levels), the less developed countries (those with per capita income less than or equal to Brazil's), and the middle-income countries (those with per capita income between Brazil's and Italy's). They find little overlap between such groups - very few people in developing countries have incomes in the range of those in the rich countries.
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    Democracy and Income Inequality : An Empirical Analysis
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-03) Gradstein, Mark ; Milanovic, Branko ; Ying, Yvonne
    Standard political economy theories suggest that democratization has a moderating effect on income inequality. But the empirical literature has failed to uncover any such robust relationship. The authors take another look at the issue. The authors argue that prevailing ideology may be an important determinant of inequality and that the democratization effect "works through" ideology. In societies that value equality highly there is less distributional conflict among income groups, so democratization may have only a negligible effect on inequality. But in societies that value equality less, democratization reduces inequality through redistribution as the poor outvote the rich. The authors' cross-country empirical analysis, covering 126 countries in 1960-98, confirms the hypothesis: ideology, as proxied by a country's dominant religion, seems to be related to inequality. In addition, while in Judeo-Christian societies increased democratization appears to lead to lower inequality, in Muslim and Confucian societies it has an insignificant effect. The authors hypothesize that Muslim and Confucian societies rely on informal transfers to reach the desired level of inequality, while Judeo-Christian societies, where family ties are weaker, use political action.
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    Income Convergence during the Disintegration of the World Economy, 1919-39
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-01) Milanovic, Branko
    Some economists have argued that the process of disintegration of the world economy between the two world wars led to income divergence between the countries. This is in keeping with the view that economic integration leads to income convergence. The paper shows that the view that the period 1919-39 was associated with divergence of incomes among the rich countries is wrong. On the contrary, income convergence continued and even accelerated. Since the mid-19th century, incomes of rich countries tended to converge in peacetime regardless of whether their economies were more or less integrated. This, in turn, implies that it may not be trade and capital and labor flows that matter for income convergence but some other, less easily observable, forces like diffusion of information and technology.
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    Can We Discern the Effect of Globalization on Income Distribution? Evidence from Household Budget Surveys
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-08) Milanovic, Branko
    The effects of globalization on income distribution in rich and poor countries are a matter of controversy. While international trade theory in its most abstract formulation implies that increased trade and foreign investment should make income distribution more equal in poor countries and less equal in rich countries, finding these effects has proved elusive. The author presents another attempt to discern the effects of globalization by using data from household budget surveys and looking at the impact of openness and foreign direct investment on relative income shares of low and high deciles. The author finds some evidence that at very low average income levels, it is the rich who benefit from openness. As income levels rise to those of countries such as Chile, Colombia, or Czech Republic, for example, the situation changes, and it is the relative income of the poor and the middle class that rises compared with the rich. It seems that openness makes income distribution worse before making it better--or differently in that the effect of openness on a country's income distribution depends on the country's initial income level.
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    Political Alternation as a Restraint on Investing in Influence : Evidence from the Post-Communist Transition
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-10) Milanovic, Branko ; Hoff, Karla ; Horowitz, Shale
    The authors develop and implement a method for measuring the frequency of changes in power among distinct leaders and ideologically distinct parties that is comparable across political systems. The authors find that more frequent alternation in power is associated with the emergence of better governance in post communist countries. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that firms seek durable protection from the state, which implies that expected political alternation is relevant to the decision whether to invest in influence with the governing party or, alternatively, to demand institutions that apply predictable rules, with equality of treatment, regardless of the party in power.