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Reciprocity in bank regulatory reforms and income inequality: first evidence from a panel vector autoregression analysis


Our study examines the dynamics between variations in bank regulatory policies and the income distribution, using an IMF database of quantified measures for financial reforms as well as the Standardized World Income Inequality Database. The unbalanced panel comprises 36 developed countries and covers a period over three decades from 1973 to 2005. We assess the potential endogeneity between bank regulations and inequality via a panel vector autoregression model. Among the regulatory reforms, we consider the deregulation of securities markets, entry barriers, credit and interest rate controls as well as the extent of privatization, international capital flows and banking supervision. We are able to provide support for the hypotheses that (i) overall, abolishing bank regulations enhances inequality in income and (ii) higher levels in inequality encourage laissez-faire policies in the banking sector. Moreover, our results highlight the importance of examining each regulatory reform individually. In particular, we endorse a relaxation of entry barriers for financial intermediaries while promoting interest rate controls, capital account restrictions and deliberate government intervention in securities markets.

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  1. Frequently dubbed “financialization” and comprising various phenomena such as increasing private household debt, securitization and financial deregulation (Koehler et al. 2016).

  2. As H. P. Minsky (1919–1996) has argued since 1954.

  3. Including the expansion of financial activities, improvements in financial markets and financial services, financial openness and direct access to capital.

  4. Such as the neoclassical allocative efficiency theory, a structural Keynesian narrative or neo-Kaleckian approach.

  5. We use the R package panelvar by Sigmund and Ferstl (2019) who basically extend the STATA code by Roodman (2009a) with the GMM estimators of Arellano and Bond (1991) and Blundell and Bond (1998) to panel vector autoregression models.

  6. Unfortunately, Abiad et al. (2010) did not update their regulatory policy dataset beyond 2005.

  7. \({\bar{y}} = \int _{0}^{\infty } y f(y) \mathrm {d}y\).

  8. \(y_{i,t+1}^{\bot } = c_{i,t} (y_{i,t}-1/T_{i,t} \sum _{s>t} y_{i,s})\). Where \(c_{i,t} = \sqrt{T_{i,t}/(T_{i,t}+1)}\). This transformation is suggested by Arellano and Bover (1995) to minimize data losses due to data gaps.

  9. The first difference transformation exists for \(t \in \{p+2, \ldots , T\}\), and the forward orthogonal transformation exists for \(t \in \{p+1, \ldots , T-1\}\). We denote the set of indexes t, for which the transformation exists by \({\mathbb {T}}_{\varDelta }\).

  10. In the empirical literature, this problem is known as instrument proliferation (Roodman 2009b).

  11. We can also rely on an alternative proof of Koenker and Machado (1999) that the first difference GMM estimator remains consistent and asymptotically normally distributed in the case of \(T \rightarrow \infty \). Koenker and Machado (1999) state the following condition: \(q^3/N \rightarrow 0\).

  12. See also H. P. Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis (FIH).

  13. Together with the exchange rate, par and the price level.

  14. The private interest view suggests that in the circumstance of a (natural) monopoly or oligopoly, regulations ought to be imposed in order to improve social welfare and to correct market failure. However, in this view, politicians and supervisors of the government do not aim at maximizing public welfare but their own. Therefore, independent monitoring of banks rather than official oversight should be strengthened in order to limit the abuse of power.

  15. Under “securitization” we understand the “process of turning illiquid assets, or certain aspect of that asset like their volatility, into financial assets that can be traded on markets. [...] This [is] supposed to slice risk into different parts and allocate it to those who [are] best equipped to hold it.” (Stockhammer 2016) On the role of banks as financial intermediaries, the “originate and distribute model of lending” (in contrast to the “originate to hold model,” banks originate credit and securitize or sell a fraction of it later or at the time of emergence) gives banks flexibility and reduces incentives so screen borrowers in the securitization process. That is, banks are building up riskier loans; the US sub-prime crisis 2007 has then infamously put securities markets back to the center stage of financial analysis.


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Correspondence to Lea Steininger.

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Appendix: Data coverage and summary statistics

Appendix: Data coverage and summary statistics

See Tables 11, 12 and 13.

Table 11 Countries in the Sample (36)
Table 12 Variable definition and source
Table 13 Summary statistics of the variables included

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Steininger, L., Sigmund, M. Reciprocity in bank regulatory reforms and income inequality: first evidence from a panel vector autoregression analysis. Empir Econ 59, 1537–1572 (2020).

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  • Income inequality
  • Bank regulation
  • Financial reform
  • Panel vector autoregression