The New Gilded Age: The Critical Inequality Debates of Our Time

By David B. Grusky; Tamar Kricheli-Katz | Go to book overview

(Some) Inequality Is Good for You

Richard B. Freeman

Economists have a more favorable view of inequality than moral philosophers, theologians, other social scientists, and human beings in general. They do not have a more favorable view of inequality because economists are hard-hearted and care less about the poor than other people, though some economists fit that description. Nor do economists have a more favorable view on inequality because they—or more properly, we—are highly paid beneficiaries of inequality or consultants to corporate America, though again some of us fit those descriptions.

Economists look favorably on inequality because economic analysis stresses that inequality creates incentives that induce people to work hard, invest in skills, and choose work activities where the economy most needs

Richard B. Freeman holds the Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University
and is currently serving as faculty codirector of the Labor and Worklife Program at
the Harvard Law School. He directs the Science and Engineering Workforce Project
at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is a senior research fellow in labor
markets at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance
and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science. He received the Mincer
Lifetime Achievement Prize from the Society of Labor Economics in 2006, and in
2007 he was awarded the IZA Prize in Labor Economics. In 2011 he was appointed
Frances Perkins Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
His recent publications include International Differences in the Business Practices
and Productivity of Firms
(with Kathryn Shaw), Science and Engineering Careers
in the United States
(with Daniel Goroff), Reforming the Welfare State: Recovery
and Beyond in Sweden
(with Birgitta Swedenborg and Robert Topel), and Shared
Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-
Based Stock Options
(with Douglas Kruse and Joseph Blasi).

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