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How fair? Changes in federal income taxation and the distribution of income, 1978 to 1998

Author

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  • James Alm

    (Georgia State University)

  • Fitzroy Lee

    (Office of Research and Analysis, Government of the District of Colombia)

  • Sally Wallace

    (Georgia State University)

Abstract

In this paper, we determine how tax law and income distribution changes have separately contributed to the changes in tax progressivity over time, and also how a specific pre-tax distribution of income affects the equalizing ability of a given tax change. We use information from the Current Population Survey for years that follow immediately after significant tax law changes or after the full enactment of these changes to measure the effect of income taxes on income distribution for selected years over the period 1978 to 1998. We find that, even when account is taken of the induced effect of changes in federal income tax laws on pre-tax income, the individual income tax structure has been less successful in equalizing after-tax income since the 1980s and into the early 1990s. We also find that a given tax law's equalizing effect on the distribution of income is significantly affected by the pre-tax distribution of income. © 2005 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • James Alm & Fitzroy Lee & Sally Wallace, 2005. "How fair? Changes in federal income taxation and the distribution of income, 1978 to 1998," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(1), pages 5-22.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:24:y:2005:i:1:p:5-22
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20067
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20067
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Suits, Daniel B, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 747-752, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Immervoll, Herwig & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2014. "Tax policy and income inequality in the US, 1979-2007," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-001, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. James Alm, 2017. "Is Economics Useful for Public Policy?," Working Papers 1702, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. Duncan, Denvil, 2014. "Behavioral responses and the distributional effects of the Russian ‘flat’ tax," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 226-240.
    4. Olivier Bargain & Mathias Dolls & Herwig Immervoll & Dirk Neumann & Andreas Peichl & Nico Pestel & Sebastian Siegloch, 2011. "Tax policy and income inequality in the U.S., 1978—2009: A decomposition approach," Working Papers 215, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    5. Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Immervoll, Herwig & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2013. "Partisan Tax Policy and Income Inequality in the U.S., 1979-2007," IZA Discussion Papers 7190, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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