GINI DP 82: The paradox of redistribution revisited: and that it may rest in peace?
There is a long-standing controversy in the academic literature over the question of whether targeting benefits towards the bottom part of the income distribution actually enhances or weakens their redistributive impact. Korpi and Palme have influentially claimed that “the more we target benefits at the poor, the less likely we are to reduce poverty and inequality”. The basic empirical underpinning of this claim is a strong inverse relationship at the country level between social transfer targeting and redistributive impact. This paper shows that this key finding no longer holds as a robust empirical generalisation. The relationship between the extent of targeting and redistributive impact over a broad set of empirical specifications, country selections and data sources has in fact become a very weak one, suggesting that the extent of targeting per se may not matter anymore as much as we have assumed since Korpi and Palme.
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