Inequality Aversion, Populism, and the Backlash Against Globalization
56 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2018 Last revised: 16 Jul 2021
Date Written: August 2018
Motivated by the recent rise of populism in western democracies, we develop a tractable equilibrium model in which a populist backlash emerges endogenously in a strong economy. In the model, voters dislike inequality, especially the high consumption of "elites." Economic growth exacerbates inequality due to heterogeneity in preferences, which generates heterogeneity in returns on capital. In response to rising inequality, rich-country voters optimally elect a populist promising to end globalization. Equality is a luxury good. Countries with more inequality, higher financial development, and trade deficits are more vulnerable to populism, both in the model and in the data.
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