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What is the link between financial development and income inequality? evidence from Malaysia

Ahmed, Azleen Rosemy and Masih, Mansur (2017): What is the link between financial development and income inequality? evidence from Malaysia.

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This paper studies the long run relationship between financial development and income inequality in Malaysia over the period of 1970-2007. For the last 45 years, Malaysian income inequality has been decreasing from a height of 0.56 (Gini coefficient) in 1976 to 0.4 in 2014 while its economy and financial sector especially the banking industry has been expanding. The issue of importance is to investigate whether in a developing economy, the financial sector plays a role in reducing income inequality by mobilising and allocating savings into productive investments. We have employed the auto regressive distributed lag (ARDL) bound testing approach and the error correction mechanism to examine the existence of long run relationship, while variance decomposition (VDC) technique is used to provide Granger causal relationship between the variables. The cointegration tests show that there is a long run relationship between financial development, economic growth, trade openness and income inequality in Malaysia. However, financial development itself is found to be not statistically significant in influencing income inequality during the sample period. This finding is similar to Law & Tan’s (2009) findings over a shorter period 1980-2000. However, the VDC finds that financial development can be a tool for the government to employ to reduce income inequality. This paper also provides evidence that trade openness helps reduce income inequality. In terms of policy, enhancing financial access that would steer the development of financial system towards a pro-growth and pro-poor direction is needed to ensure that financial development fully supports the reduction of income inequality in Malaysia.

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