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Can Rationing Increase Welfare? Theory and An Application to India's Ration Shop System

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  • Gadenne, Lucie

Abstract

Ration shop systems allow households to purchase limited quantities of some commodities at a fixed subsidized price and are in widespread use throughout the developing world. I construct a model of piece-wise increasing commodity taxation to consider whether the use of ration shops can be rationalized by the characteristics of developing countries: limited government capacity to observe household incomes and high commodity price risk. I find that an efficiency-maximizing government will never use ration shops but a welfare-maximizing one might, to redistribute and provide insurance. Welfare gains from introducing ration shops are highest for necessity goods with high price risk. Calibration results for India suggest that ration shops are welfare-improving relative to a universal transfer scheme for three of the four goods sold through the system today. Welfare gains are wiped out however once more than 6% of the funds allocated to ration shops are lost to corruption or administrative costs.

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  • Gadenne, Lucie, 2018. "Can Rationing Increase Welfare? Theory and An Application to India's Ration Shop System," CEPR Discussion Papers 13080, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13080
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    5. Digvijay S. Negi, 2022. "Global food price surge, in-kind transfers, and household welfare evidence from India," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2022-006, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.
    6. Negi, Digvijay S., 2022. "Global food price surge, in-kind transfers and household welfare: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Development; Redistribution; Social insurance; Taxation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • O23 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Fiscal and Monetary Policy in Development

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