Did inequality increase in transition?: an analysis of the transitional countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Henderson, David R.
McNab, Robert M.
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Parallel to the process of democratization, the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia have shown an increase in measured income inequality during their transition from centrally-planned to a market-oriented economy. Since the behavior of these countries contradicted previous models of inequality, researchers analyzing the transition process linked the increase in income inequality to the egalitarian values of socialism and to the process of economic and political liberalization. This thesis questions the validity of the above statement based on three pillars. First, other factors, from economic convulsions to the revaluation of natural resources, violent conflicts, corruption, and the expansion of organized crime, have been more closely linked than democratization to changes in income inequality. Second, data quality was generally poor in socialist countries, and extremely poor in several socialist countries, and have improved during the transition in most countries, usually without proper documentation of the changes. Finally, the analysis of the origins of today's income inequality shows that the magnitude and effect of hidden inequalities in the socialist past were highly underestimated. In short, an increase in income inequality caused by democratization is not likely, while hidden inequalities in the socialist era could even be higher than today's measured inequality.
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