Chief Economist of the World Bank Group and Yale professor Pinelopi Goldberg argued during the Kuznets Lecture on Thursday that despite the common belief that there exists a tradeoff between growth and inequality, there are many instances where a certain degree of equality is a pre-condition for growth, so that growth and equality may be complements.  

Goldberg’s lecture was presented at the 30th annual Kuznets Lecture on the topic of “Poverty Reduction in the Era of Waning Globalization.” The lecture was organized by the Yale Economic Growth Center. More than 200 participants filled in Henry R. Luce Auditorium. Professor of Economics and Director of Economic Growth Center Rohini Pande delivered the opening speech in celebration of Goldberg’s work on inequality and economic growth.

The Kuznet lecture series honors the late Simon Kuznets who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 1971. The series is dedicated to “Quantitative Aspects of the Economic Growth of Nations.”

“Kuznets played an instrumental role in founding the Economic Growth Center at Yale,” said Professor Pande. “[The Center] stands as the first developed institution in a U.S. university which applies quantitative methods to understand economic development […] Broader measures of inequality will be key to Professor Goldberg’s lecture tonight, and the mini-conference that will follow tomorrow.”

According to Professor Pande, Goldberg was the first female professor to be given tenure from the Economics department, and currently serves as the first female president of the U.S. Econometric Society. She is one of only two women lecturers in 30 years of Kuznets lectures’ history.

During the lecture, Goldberg commented on the interrelationship between economic growth and the theme of the Kuznets’ lecture series — inequality. She explained that she has been interacting with policymakers from countries all over the globe and has been frequently asked to share her vision on poverty alleviation, especially in developing countries.

“Poverty is almost a forgotten word except inside the World Bank,” Goldberg said. “In this era of increasing globalization, there is an emerging trend of two things. First, the quest for a new vision for development. And second, the demand for more equality, or less inequality by running cross-country regressions. … While growth and poverty reduction are highly correlated, there are many instances where growth does not produce poverty reduction because it does not trickle down.The point I would make is that policy makers should focus on redistribution from the rich to the middle class and the poor, instead of simply focusing on growth.”

Goldberg concluded her lecture by providing valuable insights to small developing countries on strategies for poverty alleviation. She said that for a small country, it is nearly impossible to eliminate poverty if the country remains closed. She said that “open trading measures contribute to stronger capital and labor flows between countries.” Alternatively, she said countries should push for a larger middle class, so that the purchasing power of this class can support development.

Tracy Zhou ’23 expressed her excitement and concerns regarding the environmental concerns surrounding poverty alleviation. She said that the lecture effectively demonstrated the efficiency of economic growth in poverty alleviation through intricately set-up models, but her remarks that developing countries did not take environmental costs into consideration when developing trade is concerning.

She also stated that it is irresponsible to say that even though most economic powerhouses, such as U.S. and China, have not paid enough attention to combating global climate change, that does not justify other countries’ negligence.

The Kuznets Lecture is held annually in celebration of the Nobel Laureate.

Luna Li | luna.li@yale.edu

Correction, March 3: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Professor Goldberg’s comments.