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Income Inequality, Job Polarization, and the Redistributive Power of Antitrust

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In recent years, income inequality and antitrust enforcement have been repeatedly linked in popular and policy discussions. Particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic shocked and dramatically reshaped daily lives across the world, concerns regarding economic inequality have surged. Simultaneously, as the pandemic increased global reliance upon technological tools—already the topic of significant debate regarding appropriate antitrust enforcement— and catalyzed disruptions along all manner of supply chains, created various shortages, and drove price increases, the appropriate role of antitrust laws once again reemerged as a critical topic of discussion. It was perhaps inevitable that the two phenomena would be linked in policy discussions.

The goal of this Article is to understand better the capacity of antitrust law and policy to affect inequality trends and to begin the work of ascertaining its role in contributing to recent income inequality trends. It is generally agreed that individual antitrust cases have distributional effects. But the causal link between antitrust enforcement and inequality, writ large, remains underdeveloped and underexplored.

This Article uses income inequality as a particular focus for several reasons. Income distribution is well-explored and scrupulously analyzed, meaning there is a particular story to follow and potential insights to glean that might be relevant from an antitrust perspective. Moreover, income is, for most people, a critical component of economic wellbeing and a contributor to consumption capacity.