The division of labor, inequality and growth

Arthur Fishman, Avi Simhon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We present a model that links the division of labor and economic growth with the division of wealth in society. When capital market imperfections restrict the access of poor households to capital, the division of wealth affects individual incentives to invest in specialization. In turn, the division of labor determines the dynamics of the wealth distribution. A highly concentrated distribution of wealth leads to a low degree of specialization, low productivity, and low wages. In that case workers are unable to accumulate enough wealth to invest in specialization. Hence, in a highly unequal society, there is a vicious cycle in which the degree of specialization, productivity and wages stay low, wealth and income inequality stays high and the economy stagnates. By contrast, greater equality increases investment in specialization and leads to a greater division of labor and higher long run development.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Division of labor
  • Growth
  • Income equality


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