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Working paper

The Great Divergence revisited: industrialization, inequality and political conflict in the unified growth model

Yarkin A., Veselov D. A.
This paper studies the impact of inequality in capital and land distribution on the pace of industrialization, thereby explaining the role of wealth inequality in the Great Divergence phenomenon. We build a two-sector unified growth model, in which the outcome of public policy contest between the supporters and opponents of modern sector development determines the pace of industrialization. The distribution of wealth affects the incentives of agents to invest in political conflict, and hence influences the probability of pro-growth policies. We show that while higher inequality in land distribution hampers modern sector development, higher inequality in capital within landless agents is growth enhancing. The strength of the latter effect increases with the amount of accumulated capital. The model also captures the hump-shaped path of conflict intensity observed throughout the industrialization phase. We present several historical narratives that support these results.