Special Event addresses Inequality of Opportunity

Topic:  Addressing Inequality of Opportunity –

Lessons from the OECD & Latin America

Speaker:  Ulrich Lachler

Location:  The Forum, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, 1600 St. Michael’s Drive


In his presentation, Ulrich Lachler will discuss findings from recent World Bank and OECD research on inequality, showing that most OECD countries experienced rising income inequality over the last 25 years, and that OECD policymakers have grounds for concern about this.   Evidence is beginning to accumulate in support of the view that income inequality, like cholesterol, has both a good and a bad side, depending on whether it is the result of differences in effort across individuals or of differences in circumstances that are beyond the individual’s control (e.g., place of birth or parents’ education attainment)- which is commonly referred to as the inequality of opportunity.

Whether or not OECD policymakers should be concerned about the rise of income inequality then depends on whether that rise is mainly attributable to greater inequality of effort or to worsening inequality of opportunity.  If it turns out to be the latter, policymakers face the challenge of reversing the rise in income inequality by reducing the inequality of opportunity without affecting inequality of effort. The paper argues that increases in inequality are not inevitable, and can be influenced by policy intervention. It draws on lessons from OECD countries experiences since the mid-1980s (where most of them experienced rising inequality, but to varying degrees reflecting policy differences) and from Latin America during the 2000s (where most countries experienced declining inequality, and high economic growth) to provide policy recommendations for reducing inequality of opportunity.

Ulrich Lächler worked in the World Bank for 25 years before retiring at the end of 2011. He worked as Lead Economist for economic policy in Central America and for the Philippines.  He also served on two occasions as the World Bank’s Resident Representative in post-conflict Nicaragua. Prior to joining the World Bank, Dr. Lachler led a team of economists in the Development Policy Department of the Kiel Institute of Economics in Germany, and taught economics at the University of Maryland and at Columbia University. He holds a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University. He currently works as a consultant and resides with his family in Miami Beach.