NYU Abu Dhabi Global Professor of Economics François Bourguignon, who was the chief economist of the World Bank from 2003-07, has spent decades studying the benefits and sources of equality of incomes – and the roadblocks to it. Bourguignon, one of the planet's leading experts on the subject, has launched a huge study of how institutions – political, social, and otherwise – can alter a country's income equality level and slow down development.
The project examines in depth the income-equality challenges facing one country, Tanzania. Bourguignon and economist Jean-Philippe Platteau of Belgium's Université de Namur, are co-directors of a study known as Economic Development and Institutions, funded by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development. The project will run for five years in its first phase, involving dozens of scholars from many countries.
The "very ambitious project," began about one year ago, Bourguignon said. "We're trying to learn how we can cut the vicious circle by which bad institutions generate slow development, and slow development generates bad institutions."
Tanzania is a suitable place to study these issues, he noted, because gross domestic product per capita has been growing at 4 percent annually, but poverty has not decreased – by one measure, known as the multidimensional poverty index, it has actually worsened.