Conventional wisdom, based mainly on surveyed household income distribution statistics, suggests that inequality is generally low in Arab countries. At the same time, little attention has been devoted to social inequalities, whether in terms of outcomes or opportunities. This column introduces a forthcoming report, which offers a different narrative: based on the largest research project on the subject to date and covering 12 Arab countries, the authors argue that the region is caught in an inequality trap.
For institutional and historical reasons, countries of the Middle East and North Africa have relied mostly on consumption subsidies for reducing inequality. This column presents evidence on the distributional impact of recent subsidy reforms in Egypt.