Multinational enterprises and economic inequality: A review and international business research agenda

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Purpose: This paper contributes to laying a foundation for a research agenda in international business (IB) on multinational enterprises (MNEs) and economic inequality, through an extensive literature review and development of a conceptual framework.

Design/methodology/approach: We conduct a systematic review of studies on economic inequality in IB literature, complemented by a broader selective review of studies in general management, economics, political science, sociology and other disciplines.

Findings: Our review confirms that economic inequality has received little attention in IB research. Most contributions are recent conceptual studies, while empirical studies are scarce. Studies in economics and other disciplines provide further insights on the effects of MNEs on inequality, although specific findings are somewhat mixed.

Research limitations/implications: We develop a simple framework outlining channels of effects from MNEs activities on different forms of inequality, discuss challenges and opportunities for IB in addressing this topic, and identify some avenues for future IB research on economic inequality.

Originality/value: This paper is the first comprehensive review of literature in IB on economic inequality. It also presents relevant literature on MNEs and economic inequality from various other disciplines and outlines the contributions that the IB discipline can make to the study of this topic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-101
Number of pages31
JournalCritical Perspectives on International Business
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021


  • Multinational Enterprises
  • Economic Inequality
  • nternational Business


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