New Testament’s Matthew effect and modern finance: on the nexus between wealth inequality, financial development and financial technology

Jon Frost, Leonardo Gambacorta and Romina Gambacorta of BIS in this paper:

In the social sciences, the idea of the well endowed receiving further privilege, eg the rich getting richer, is often called the “Matthew effect” (New Testament Book of Matthew, 25:29). In economics, this effect is relevant particularly for wealth inequality. The effect could be amplified by financial development and technological advances that give investors access to better financial services or to assets with higher returns.

This paper analyses the role of financial development and financial technology in driving inequality in (returns to) wealth. Using micro data from the Survey on Household Income and Wealth (SHIW) conducted by the Bank of Italy for the period 1991-2016, we find evidence of the “Matthew effect” – a capacity of wealthy households to achieve higher returns than other households. With an instrumental variable approach, we find that financial development (number of bank branches) and financial technology (use of remote banking) both have a positive association with households’ financial wealth and financial returns. While households of all wealth deciles benefit from the effects of financial development and financial technology, these benefits are larger when moving towards the top of the wealth distribution. Still, the economic significance of this gap fell in the last part of the sample period, as remote banking became more widespread.

Interesting!

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