Pranab Bardhan’s contribution to the “What Is Inequality?” series focuses on the arguments and evidence for whether and how inequality shapes various dimensions of socioeconomic performance. Bardhan finds that, in many areas, there is not a trade-off between inequality and efficiency—indeed, the first may undermine the second. Evidence for the impact of inequality on phenomena that shape economic performance, such as the presence of sociopolitical conflict, is more mixed. Bardhan concludes with a discussion of which inequality matters—that of opportunity or outcome?
Pranab Bardhan is professor of Graduate School at the Department of Economics of University of California, Berkeley. He has done theoretical and field studies research on rural institutions in poor countries, on political economy of development policies, and on globalization. A part of his work is in the interdisciplinary area of economics, political science, and social anthropology. He is the author of fourteen books, the most recent of which are Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India (Princeton University Press, 2012), and Globalization, Democracy, and Corruption (Frontpage Publishing, 2015). He is the author of more than 150 journal articles and the editor of twelve books, including two volumes on Conversations between Economists and Anthropologists (Wiley Blackwell). He was the chief editor of the Journal of Development Economics for eighteen years and the codirector of the MacArthur Foundation–funded international Network on Effects of Inequality for eleven years. He held the Distinguished Fulbright Siena Chair at the University of Siena, Italy in 2008–9; he was the BP Centennial Professor at London School of Economics for 2010 and 2011.