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Cover Global Political Economy

10. Inequality  

Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez and Andy Sumner

This chapter explores income inequality in the global political economy. Income inequality matters for intrinsic and instrumental reasons, and intersects with inequalities between social groups based on gender, race, and other factors. There are three ways to think about income inequality at a global level: ‘international inequality’, ‘world inequality’, and ‘global inequality’. One can say that international inequality and world inequality have unambiguously declined since 1980. However, the magnitude of the decline depends on whether the size of countries' populations is taken into account. Meanwhile, national inequality refers to differences in income between individuals within a country. The chapter then discusses poverty. Ultimately, explanations for patterns of inequality in the contemporary period can be traced to many of the dynamics associated with globalization, particularly the reorganization of the global economy around global value chains (GVCs) and the implications for countries pursuing ‘late development’.