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Structural change and regional convergence: the case of declining transport costs

Tombe, Trevor (2011): Structural change and regional convergence: the case of declining transport costs.

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Abstract

Regional income inequality within countries is an important contributor to global income inequality. I investigate its relationship with structural change and growth using the historical experience of the United States since 1880. Specifically, I modify an existing multi-sector general equilibrium growth model and highlight two important forces: (1) structural change, which disproportionately benefit poor agricultural regions; and (2) transport cost reductions, which shrinks regional price and wage differences. Consistent with existing research, structural change accounts for the Southern states’ convergence to the Northeast. In contrast, I find reductions in transport costs offset the nominal income gains from structural change for the Midwestern states. The Midwest case is of greater relevance for developing countries, given their high internal transportation costs. These results suggest growth in developing countries may not significantly reduce global income inequality.

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