Income inequality in the US has now reached levels not seen since the 1920s. Management, as a field of scholarly inquiry, has the potential to contribute in significant ways to our understanding of recent inequality trends. We review and assess recent research, both in the management literature and in other fields. We then delineate a conceptual framework that highlights the mechanisms through which business practice (and, indirectly, business pedagogy and scholarship) may be linked to income inequality. We then outline four general areas in which management scholars are uniquely positioned to contribute to ongoing research: (1) data and description, (2) organizational dynamics, (3) collective action, and (4) value flows and tradeoffs. To stimulate future research, we highlight a number of relevant research questions and link these questions to existing management research streams that could be leveraged to address them.
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We searched the following journals from 1990 through 2014 for articles with the phrase “income inequality” (or similar terms) in the abstract: Academy of Management Annals, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Academy of Management Perspectives, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Business and Society, Business and Society Review, Business Ethics Quarterly, Business Ethics: A European Review, Business Horizons, California Management Review, Corporate Governance: An International Review, Harvard Business Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management, Journal of Management Inquiry, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Managerial Issues, Long Range Planning, Management Science, MIT Sloan Management Review, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Strategic Management Journal, Strategic Organization.
Although not included in this table, much of the dialog on the effects of inequality has taken place in popular press books (see, for example, Frank and Cook 1995; Johnston 2014; Kalleberg 2011; Korten 2001; Noah 2012; Stiglitz 2012; Taibbi 2014; Uchitelle 2007; Wilkinson and Pickett 2009a) and in reports and other publications from different academic and policy centers (e.g., The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis, the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University).
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We thank Dr. Roger Conaway, School of Business, Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITESM), San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Oliver Laasch, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR), and Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester, and colleagues at The University of Texas at Tyler for contributions to the concepts and ideas in this manuscript.
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Beal, B.D., Astakhova, M. Management and Income Inequality: A Review and Conceptual Framework. J Bus Ethics 142, 1–23 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2762-6
- Income inequality
- Wage inequality
- Economic value creation
- Value flow analysis