Inequality hurts economic growth, finds OECD research

Inequality hurts economic growth, finds OECD research

09/12/2014 – Reducing income inequality would boost economic growth, according to new OECD analysis. This work finds that countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality.

The single biggest impact on growth is the widening gap between the lower middle class and poor households compared to the rest of society. Education is the key: a lack of investment in education by the poor is the main factor behind inequality hurting growth.

“This compelling evidence proves that addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth and needs to be at the centre of the policy debate,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Countries that promote equal opportunity for all from an early age are those that will grow and prosper.”

Rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off growth in Mexico and New Zealand over the past two decades up to the Great Recession. In Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, the cumulative growth rate would have been six to nine percentage points higher had income disparities not widened, but also in Sweden, Finland and Norway, although from low levels. On the other hand, greater equality helped increase GDP per capita in Spain, France and Ireland prior to the crisis.

The paper finds new evidence that the main mechanism through which inequality affects growth is by undermining education opportunities for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, lowering social mobility and hampering skills development.

People whose parents have low levels of education see their educational outcomes deteriorate as income inequality rises. By contrast, there is little or no effect on people with middle or high levels of parental educational background.

The impact of inequality on growth stems from the gap between the bottom 40 percent with the rest of society, not just the poorest 10 percent. Anti-poverty programmes will not be enough, says the OECD. Cash transfers and increasing access to public services, such as high-quality education, training and healthcare, are an essential social investment to create greater equality of opportunities in the long run.

The paper also finds no evidence that redistributive policies, such as taxes and social benefits, harm economic growth, provided these policies are well designed, targeted and implemented.

The working paper, Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth, is part of the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges Initiative, an Organisation-wide reflection on the roots and lessons to be learned from the global economic crisis, as well as an exercise to review and update its analytical frameworks.

Stock market prices are a terrible thing to anchor to Indraneal Balasubramanian Indraneal Balasubramanian, Engineer+Finance MBA by training

I have often seen people knowingly or unknowingly anchoring to the price of a stock, perceiving say a Rs 100 stock as cheaper than a Rs 1000 stock. Not only is this is bad because as an investor you should be worrying about the business fundamentals not the share price fluctuations, but does not consider the size of the business or the scale of it’s sales or profitability at all.

To illustrate this idea, consider the following

MRF Limited
Current Price: Rs 39557

Nestle India Limited
Current Price:  Rs 6923

Gati Limited
Current Price Rs 224

ITC Limited
Current Price: Rs 332

What does this tell you? Absolutely nothing of value on its own. This isn’t a race where a share starts at it’s face value of say 10 and continues growing from there on. Along the way, adjustments like splits, bonuses and share buybacks need to be considered.

Thus we get to the idea of number of shares outstanding. When you buy a share, you are buying a small % of the company, or to be precise 1/(no of shares outstanding of the company). You can use this multiple to figure out the market capitalization of the company as well as the total earnings.

Assume this cake represents the business

Each slice represents a share of the goods. Whether you slice it 10 ways or 20, the size of the cake is not affected by how it is sliced, only the size of the slice is changed. The quality of the cake is also completely independent of the size and manner of slicing. You can have a terrible large cake or a wonderful small cake (and vice versa) depending on the skill of the baker (management) and the ingredients used (fundamental economics of the business)

This post might seem simplistic to those who are aware of fundamental valuation, but I think this basic analogy needs to be drilled into every investor’s head.