Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Fiscal policy and income redistribution in Latin America: Challenging the conventional wisdom

Contents:

Author Info

  • Nora Lustig

    ()
    (Commitment to Equity Initiative (CEQ), Inter-American Dialogue and Tulane University)

Abstract

Conventional wisdom states that fiscal policy redistributes little in Latin America. Lower tax revenues and – above all – lower and less progressive transfers have been identified as the main cause. Existing studies show that, while in Europe the distribution of all transfers combined (cash and in-kind) is egalitarian, the bulk of transfers in Latin America accrue to the upper quintile. Through an in-depth fiscal incidence analysis applied to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Peru we argue that conventional wisdom may be wrong. First, the extent and effectiveness of income redistribution and poverty reduction, revenue-collection, and spending patterns vary so significantly across countries that speaking of ?Latin America? as a unity is misleading. The (after direct taxes and transfers) Gini, for example, declines by over 10 percent in Argentina but by only 2.4 percent in Bolivia. In Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia government revenues are close to 40 percent of GDP, whereas in Mexico and Peru they are around 20 percent. Social spending (excluding contributory pensions) as a share of GDP ranges from 17 percent in Brazil to 5.2 percent in Peru. Second, social spending does not accrue to the richest quintile. On the contrary, concentration coefficients for social spending are highly negative (progressive in absolute terms) for Argentina and slightly so for Bolivia and Mexico. In Brazil and Peru social spending is progressive in relative terms only. Third, there is no obvious correlation between the size of government and the size of social spending, on the one hand, and the extent and effectiveness of redistribution, on the other: government size is similar for Argentina and Bolivia but they are on opposite sides in terms of the extent of redistribution. Fourth, due to indirect taxes households are net payers to the ?fisc? beginning in the third decile in Bolivia and Brazil; for Argentina, Mexico and Peru this happens in the fifth decile. Fifth, corrective measures differ too: in Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil they may involve the reduction in revenues and total spending, while revenues and social spending (especially direct transfers to the poor) should be increased in Mexico and Peru. Bolivia and Brazil need to introduce changes to their tax and transfer system so that net payers to the ?fisc? start at higher incomes. All five countries need to improve the progressivity of their spending, including non-social spending components.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.ecineq.org/milano/WP/ECINEQ2011-227.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality in its series Working Papers with number 227.

as in new window
Length: 61 pages
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2011-227

Contact details of provider:
Email:
Web page: http://www.ecineq.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: fiscal incidence; fiscal policy; inequality; poverty; redistribution; social policy; taxes; transfers; Latin America; Argentina; Bolivia; Brazil; Mexico and Peru;

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Engel, Eduardo M. R. A. & Galetovic, Alexander & Raddatz, Claudio E., 1999. "Taxes and income distribution in Chile: some unpleasant redistributive arithmetic," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 155-192, June.
  2. Nora Lustig, 2011. "Commitment to Equity Assessment (CEQ) A Diagnostic Framework to Assess Governments' Fiscal Policies Handbook," Working Papers 1119, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  3. Dillon Alleyne & James Alm & Roy Bahl & Sally Wallace, 2004. "Tax Burden in Jamaica," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0434, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  4. Breceda, Karla & Rigolini, Jamele & Saavedra, Jaime, 2008. "Latin America and the social contract : patterns of social spending and taxation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4604, The World Bank.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Fiscal policy and income redistribution in Latin America: Challenging the conventional wisdom
    by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2011-11-15 12:04:28

RePEc Biblio mentions

As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
  1. > Political Economy > The Political Economy of Latin America
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Cornia, Giovanni Andrea & Martorano, Bruno, 2011. "A New Fiscal Pact, Tax Policy Changes and Income Inequality," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  2. Nora Lustig & Sean Higgins, 2012. "Fiscal Incidence, Fiscal Mobility and the Poor: A New Approach," Working Papers 1202, Tulane University, Department of Economics.

Lists

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
  1. Nora Lustig in Wikipedia (English)

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2011-227. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Maria Ana Lugo).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.