Global appropriation of resources causes high international material inequality – Growth is not the solution

Anke Schaffartzik, Juan Antonio Duro, Fridolin Krausmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

30 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Elsevier B.V. High levels of resource consumption cause detrimental environmental change. Very low consumption may fail to meet basic needs. A major challenge for a sustainability transformation is to reduce inequalities and achieve a globally sustainable level of resource flows. By providing access to resources beyond national boundaries, trade could either lead to more equal international distribution or aggravate unequal distribution of material resources. For a sample of 173 countries between 1993 and 2010, we studied the role of trade and the upstream global appropriation of resources in international material inequality. Until the turn of the century, per capita material extraction was as unequally distributed as material consumption (extraction plus imports minus exports). Import and export flows as such do not greatly affect inequality. The global appropriation of materials associated with trade, however, decisively increased inequality until 2000. In the 21st century, decreasing inequality coincided with a sharp rise in global material extraction, appropriated by high and upper-middle income countries. Such growth-led reduction of inequality is not environmentally sustainable. It has, until now, been enabled by global trade patterns distributing resources in a way that can never be globally inclusive, putting especially the world's poorest countries at risk.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-19
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Consumption
  • International inequality
  • Material extraction
  • Material footprint
  • Theil index
  • Trade


Dive into the research topics of 'Global appropriation of resources causes high international material inequality – Growth is not the solution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this