Inequality and neighbourhood effects: Market access and welfare of the poor

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Book Chapter

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Markets, Governance, and Institutions in the Process of Economic Development


The key insight in our research is to recognize inequality-neighbourhood interaction: neighbourhood effects interacting with income inequality may affect poor people's ability to access basic facilities like health-care services, schooling, and so on. While Gulati and Ray (2016) model this interaction on a monopolist service provider in a neighbourhood structured as a linear city where rich and poor consumers live side by side, in this chapter we extend the analysis to a competitive framework with free entry and exit where the natural neighbourhood structure is a circular city. We find inverted-U shape relationships between income inequality and market access and welfare of the poor: if we compare a cross-section of societies, the poor community as a whole is initially better off living in relatively richer societies, but, beyond a point, the aggregate market access and consumer surplus of the poor starts declining as society becomes richer. We identify the possibility of complete exclusion of the poor from the market: a scenario where the service providers cater only to the rich and the poor have absolutely no market access, and find that it is the higher income gap between rich and poor that exposes the poor to this unfortunate outcome.

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