Thursday, August 30, 2012

30/8/2012: Does Banking & Financial (De)regulation iImpact Income Inequality?

A new paper, titled "Bank Regulations and Income Inequality: Empirical Evidence", by Manthos D. Delis, Iftekhar Hasan and Pantelis Kazakis (Bank of Finland Research Discussion Paper 18/2012, linked here) studied the effects of financial regulations (deregulation) on income inequality in 91 countries over the period of 1973-2005.

The study yields some very interesting results (emphasis is mine):

  • "In general, the liberalization policies from the 1970s through the early 2000s have contributed significantly to containing income inequality."
  • "... Abolishing credit controls decreases income inequality substantially, and this effect is long- lasting."
  • "Interest-rate controls and tighter banking supervision decrease income inequality; however, these effects fade away in the long term."
  • "For banking supervision, the negative effect on inequality [higher supervision leads to lower inequality] is reversed in the long run, a pattern associated with stricter capital requirements that tend to lower the availability of credit". 
  • "... Abolishing entry barriers and enhancing privatization laws seem to lower income inequality only in developed countries."
  • "... The liberalization of securities markets {expanding securitization] increases income inequality." 
What are the policy implications of these findings?

  • "Bank regulations and associated reforms aim at enhancing the creditworthiness of banks and at improving the stability of the financial sector. Several studies over the last decade show that regulations do matter in shaping bank risk (e.g., Laeven and Levine, 2009; Agoraki et al., 2009) or in affecting bank efficiency (Barth et al., 2010) and the probability of banking crises (e.g., Barth et al., 2008)."
  • "Yet, what if bank regulations have other real effects on the economy besides those associated with banking stability? And, more important, what if these real effects counteract the intended stabilizing effects?"
Two issues should be considered in answering these questions:
  1. "The literature on the relationship between bank regulations and financial stability is inconclusive. In fact, different types of regulation may have opposing effects on financial stability, according to the existing research."
  2. "... even if we assume that bank regulations like more stringent market-discipline requirements lower banks' risk-taking appetite and enhance stability (Barth et al., 2008), the empirical findings here suggest that these effects are asymmetric and certain liberalization policies (i.e., liberalization of securities markets) or regulation policies (i.e., higher capital requirements) actually increase income inequality. That is, banks pass the increased costs of higher risks (coming from the liberalization of securities markets) and higher capital requirements on to the relatively lower-income population that lacks good credit and collateral. In other words a trade-off between banking stability and inequality may be present" [Note: this trade-off, I would argue, is most certainly a problem for Ireland today, with future borrowers operating in the environment of reduced family wealth due to property bust and financial assets depletion]. 
"Given the contemporary discussion surrounding (i) the rebirth of Glass-Steagall-type regulatory reforms as they relate to securities trading, and (ii) the discussions under Basel III to increase the risk-adjusted capital base of banks, there may be more to think about before taking those steps."

"On the good side, three clear suggestions emerge from this paper and are also consistent with the findings of Beck et al. (2010)": 
  1. "... the liberalization of banking markets, primarily through abolition of credit controls, helps the poor get easier access to credit. This in turn allows them to escape the poverty trap and substantially raise their incomes." 
  2. "... appropriate prudential regulation should provide less costly incentives to banks to increase regulatory discipline without hurting the relatively poor. Information technologies that would lower the cost of transparency and more effective onsite supervision that would enhance the trust in the banking system may help achieve this goal."
  3. "... economies first need a certain level of economic and institutional development to see any positive effect of the abolishment of entry restrictions and privatizations on equality..."

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