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Insurance, Redistribution, and the Inequality of Lifetime Income

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  • Peter Haan
  • Daniel Kemptner
  • Victoria Prowse

Abstract

In this paper, we study how the tax-and-transfer system reduces the inequality of lifetime income by redistributing lifetime earnings between individuals with different skill endowments and by providing individuals with insurance against lifetime earnings risk. Based on a dynamic life-cycle model, we find that redistribution through the tax-and-transfer system offsets around half of the inequality in lifetime earnings that is due to differences in skill endowments. At the same time, taxes and transfers mitigate around 60% of the inequality in lifetime earnings that is attributable to employment and health risk. Progressive taxation of annual earnings provides little insurance against lifetime earnings risk. The lifetime insurance effects of taxation may be improved by moving to a progressive tax on lifetime earnings. Similarly, the lifetime insurance and redistributive effects of social assistance may be improved by requiring wealthy individuals to repay any social assistance received when younger.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Haan & Daniel Kemptner & Victoria Prowse, 2017. "Insurance, Redistribution, and the Inequality of Lifetime Income," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1716, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1716
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Giacomo Corneo, 2015. "Income inequality from a lifetime perspective," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 225-239, May.
    2. A. Bovenberg & Martin Hansen & Peter Sørensen, 2008. "Individual savings accounts for social insurance: rationale and alternative designs," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 15(1), pages 67-86, February.
    3. Nelissen, Jan H. M., 1998. "Annual versus lifetime income redistribution by social security," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 223-249, May.
    4. Bovenberg, A.L. & Hansen, M. & Sorensen, P.B., 2008. "Individual savings accounts for social insurance : Rationale and alternative designs," Other publications TiSEM 72e236b0-ad63-4bea-a314-6, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
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    Cited by:

    1. Charlotte Bartels & Dirk Neumann, 2018. "Redistribution and Insurance in Welfare States around the World," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 985, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Korfhage, Thorben, 2019. "Long-run consequences of informal elderly care and implications of public long-term care insurance," Ruhr Economic Papers 813, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    3. Brewer, Mike & Joyce, Robert & Waters, Tom & Woods, Joseph, 2020. "A method for decomposing the impact of reforms on the long-run income distribution, with an application to universal credit," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 192(C).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Lifetime earnings; lifetime income; tax-and-transfer system; taxation; unemployment insurance; disability benefits; social assistance; inequality; redistribution; insurance; endowments; risk; dynamic life-cycle models;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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