NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Digital Innovation and the Distribution of Income

Dominique Guellec


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Measuring and Accounting for Innovation in the Twenty-First Century, Carol Corrado, Jonathan Haskel, Javier Miranda, and Daniel Sichel, organizers
Conference held March 10–11, 2017
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series Studies in Income and Wealth

Income inequalities have increased in most OECD countries over the past decades, and the income share of the top 1% has risen. In this paper we argue that the growing importance of digital innovation—new products and processes based on software code and data—has increased market rents that benefit disproportionately the top income groups. In line with Schumpeter’s vision, digital innovation gives rise to ”winner-take-all” market structures, characterized by higher market power and risk than was the case in the previous economy of tangible products. The cause for these new market structures is digital non-rivalry, which allows for massive economies of scale and reduces costs of innovation. The latter stimulates higher rates of creative destruction, leading to higher risk as merely marginally superior products can take over the entire market, hence rendering market shares unstable. Instability commands risk premia for investors. Market rents accrue mainly to investors and top managers and less to the average employees, hence increasing income inequality.

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w23987, Digital Innovation and the Distribution of Income, Dominique Guellec, Caroline Paunov
 
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