Category: Economics 10e: Ch 11

In Gordon Brown’s last budget as Chancellor he scrapped the 10p starting rate of taxation and this change came into effect for the 2008/9 tax year starting April 6th 2008. The move has been criticised by many Labour MPs and by poverty campaign groups as they argue that the scrapping of the rate will make some poor people worse off. They also argue that it will make it more difficult to meet the targets the government has set for reducing child poverty

Chancellor accused of widening poverty trap for poorer workers Times Online (14/03/08)
Benefit move to cut child poverty BBC News Online (12/03/08)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by the poverty trap.
2. Explain how the abolition of the 10p starting rate of tax is likely to increase inequality.
3. Analyse two policies that are likely to reduce poverty. Then assess the extent to which these policies will also help reduce child poverty.

Widening levels of income distribution have led to increased anger, according to a poll carried out for the Guardian by ICM. The articles linked to below look at this issue from a range of perspectives and using a series of regional case studies.

Anger at gap between rich and poor – ICM poll Guardian (20/2/08)
Diamonds for rich inside M25; hard times for the rest Guardian (21/1/08)
What the Romans did for us: introduce a North-South divide Guardian (21/1/08)
Where Burberry, Bentleys and bling prevail Guardian (21/1/08)
Dark reality hidden behind the picturesque scenery Guardian (21/1/08)
Mills and mail order: end of Empire marks another stage of decline Guardian (21/1/08)
Mind the gap Guardian (21/1/08)

Questions

1. Define the terms ‘Lorenz curve’ and Gini coefficient’.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate show the changes that have taken place in income distribution in the UK in the past decade.
3. Assess the principal causes of the growing North-South divide.
4. Evaluate two policy options available to the government to reduce the widening gap in income distribution.

According to most conventional measures, income inequality in the developed world has been rising. This trend has been argued to be particularly prevalent in the UK and USA, but the article below from The Economist argues that conventional measures may be mis-representing the differences between the better off and the less well off. Instead of looking at income inequality, it looks at consumption inequality.

The new (improved) Gilded age The Economist (19/12/07)

Questions

1. Define the terms (a) income inequality and (b) consumption inequality.
2. Assess the extent to which income represents a good measure of economic wellbeing.
3. Discuss two policies that could be used to reduce (a) income inequality and (b) consumption inequality.

During the period that Mrs Thatcher was in office, the post-war trend towards greater equality of income was reversed. Although some of the changes the Labour government has made since 1997 have helped those on lower incomes, the rise in incomes at the top of the scale has meant that the gap between rich and poor has widened again. The article below from the Guardian looks at the latest figures on income inequality.

Inequality at same level as under Thatcher Guardian (18/5/07)


Questions
1. Define the terms (a) Lorenz curve and (b) Gini coefficient.
2. Given the changes in income distribution outlined in the article, discuss how the value of the Gini coefficient has changed since 1997.
3. Draw Lorenz curves to show the changes that have taken place in income distribution during Mrs Thatcher’s period in office and during Tony Blair’s time in office.
4. Analyse two policies that the government could introduce to reverse these income distribution trends.

The national minimum wage will rise again in October 2007 by about 3% from £5.35 to £5.52. However, the Work Foundation has warned that the effectiveness of the minimum wage may be at its limits and that further rises in its level may not have the desired impact in terms of addressing inequality. The articles and press release below consider these issues.

Minimum wage up to £5.52 per year BBC News Online (7/3/07)
National minimum wage at the limits of its effectiveness The Work Foundation – press release (6/3/07)
Warning over minimum wage level BBC News Online (6/3/07)

Questions

1. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the likely impact on the UK labour market of the proposed increase in the national minimum wage from October 2007.
2. Assess the arguments given by the Work Foundation that the minimum wage is reaching the limits of its effectiveness.
3. Evaluate two methods other than a national minimum wage for reducing levels of both relative and absolute poverty.