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Recent Changes in the Distribution of the Social Wage


  • Tom Sefton


This paper examines the distribution of the "social wage" benefits in kind from welfare services, including the National Health Service, state education, social housing, and personal social services. The current Government has put a strong emphasis on improving public services and has begun to translate this into higher spending. Although most measures of poverty ignore the social wage, its inclusion is potentially very significant in monitoring the impact of government policies on the poorest households. The paper produces estimates of the value of the social wage for 1996/7 and 2000/01, using data from several large-scale household surveys, and makes comparisons with estimates from previous work going back to 1979. The results show that people in poorer households receive a greater share of benefits in kind from welfare services than those in richer households and that this 'pro-poor' bias has been rising gradually over the long-term. Since 1996/7, spending on welfare services has grown faster than in the past and there has been a further incremental shift in favour of lower income groups across all the major services. These changes have reinforced the re-distributional effects of tax and benefit policies over the same period, though they have not prevented inequality from rising.

Suggested Citation

  • Tom Sefton, 2002. "Recent Changes in the Distribution of the Social Wage," CASE Papers case62, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case62

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Signe-Mary McKernan & Robert I. Lerman & Nancy Pindus & Jesse Valente, 2000. "The Relationship between Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Locations, Changing Welfare Policies, and the Employment of Single Mothers," JCPR Working Papers 192, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    2. Sheldon H. Danziger (ed.), 1999. "Economic Conditions and Welfare Reform," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number ecwr, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paulus, Alari & Sutherland, Holly & Tsakloglou, Panos, 2009. "The distributional impact of in kind public benefits in European countries," EUROMOD Working Papers EM10/09, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    2. Callan, Tim & Keane, Claire, 2009. "Non-cash Benefits and the Distribution of Economic Welfare," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 40(1), pages 49-71.
    3. Tess Penne & Irene Cussó Parcerisas & Lauri Mäkinen & Bérénice Storms & Tim Goedemé, 2016. "Can reference budgets be used as a poverty line?," ImPRovE Working Papers 16/05, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    4. Daniel Edmiston, 2011. "The Shifting Balance of Private and Public Welfare Activity in the United Kingdom, 1979 to 2007," CASE Papers case155, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
    5. Tim Callan & Tim Smeeding & Panos Tsakloglou, 2008. "Short-run distributional effects of public education transfers to tertiary education students in seven European countries," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(3), pages 275-288.
    6. Cormac O'Dea & Ian Preston, 2012. "The distributional impact of public spending in the UK," IFS Working Papers W12/06, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    7. Tim Callan & Tim Smeeding & Panos Tsakloglou, 2007. "Distributional Effects of Public Education Transfers in Seven European Countries," Papers WP207, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    8. Mullan, Killian & Sutherland, Holly & Zantomio, Francesca, 2009. "Accounting for housing in poverty analysis," ISER Working Paper Series 2009-33, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    9. d'Agostino, Giorgio & Pieroni, Luca & Procidano, Isabella, 2016. "Revisiting the relationship between welfare spending and income inequality in OECD countries," MPRA Paper 72020, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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