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The distributional impact of public services when needs differ

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  • Rolf Aaberge
  • Manudeep Bhuller
  • Audun Langørgen
  • Magne Mogstad

    ()
    (Statistics Norway)

Abstract

Despite a broad consensus on the need to take into account the value of public services in distributional analysis, there is little reliable evidence on how the inclusion of such non-cash income actually affects poverty and inequality estimates. In particular, the equivalence scales applied to cash income are not necessarily appropriate when including non-cash income, because the receipt of public services is likely to be associated with particular needs. In this paper, we propose a theory-based framework designed to provide a coherent evaluation of the distributional impact of local public services. The valuation of public services, identification of target groups, allocation of expenditures to target groups, and adjustment for differences in needs are derived from a model of local government spending behaviour. Using Norwegian data from municipal accounts and administrative registers we find that the inclusion of non-cash income reduces income inequality by about 15 percent and poverty rates by almost one-third. However, adjusting for differences in needs for public services across population subgroups offsets about half the inequality reduction and some of the poverty decrease.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Research Department of Statistics Norway in its series Discussion Papers with number 621.

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Date of creation: May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:621

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Keywords: Income distribution; poverty; public services; non-cash income; needs adjustment; equivalence scales;

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References

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  3. Radner, Daniel B, 1997. "Noncash Income, Equivalence Scales, and the Measurement of Economic Well-Being," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 43(1), pages 71-88, March.
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  7. Asghar Zaidi & Tania Burchardt, 2005. "Comparing Incomes When Needs Differ: Equivalization For The Extra Costs Of Disability In The U.K," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(1), pages 89-114, 03.
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  15. Smeeding, Timothy M, et al, 1993. "Poverty, Inequality, and Family Living Standards Impacts across Seven Nations: The Effect of Noncash Subsidies for Health, Education and Housing," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(3), pages 229-56, September.
  16. Coulter, Fiona A E & Cowell, Frank A & Jenkins, Stephen P, 1992. "Equivalence Scale Relativities and the Extent of Inequality and Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(414), pages 1067-82, September.
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