Development and Inequality: What Can the "Asian" Experience Teach Us?

This research project analyzes the relationship between development and inequality in Asian economies by re-incorporating political economy insights to obtain a more holistic understanding of Asian growth and its effects on the global economy.

The Asian experience of growth from the 1950s to now has had some of the most profound transformational effects on the global economy. The well-known East Asian Miracle, and the closely following miracles of China and India, have had dramatic effects on the structures of global production as well as on global measures of poverty and inequality. Perhaps less explored are the very divergent natures of their take-offs. In the first wave of Asian growth, some Asian economies (such as Japan and the “Tiger” economies) experienced a relatively equal early capitalist growth/development process between the 1950s and 1980. Subsequent growth however became much more unequal. Since 1980, in the second wave of growth in countries such as China and India, early capitalist growth/development is associated with a sharp increase in inequality. How might one understand these different phenomena, given that there is no clear standard economic theory that provides an explanation? This project tests the novel and intriguing hypothesis that these seemingly diverse phenomena can be explained by the shift in the “regime” of global capitalism around 1980.