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Predistribution vs. Redistribution: Evidence from France and the U.S

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  • Antoine Bozio

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

  • Bertrand Garbinti

    (CREST - Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique [Bruz] - ENSAI - Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Analyse de l'Information [Bruz], WIL - World Inequality Lab)

  • Jonathan Goupille-Lebret

    (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon - Saint-Etienne - ENS de Lyon - École normale supérieure de Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet - Saint-Étienne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Malka Guillot

    (ETH Zürich - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology [Zürich], IPP - Institut des politiques publiques, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

  • Thomas Piketty

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

Abstract

How much redistribution policies can account for long-run changes in inequality? To answer this question, we quantify the extent of redistribution over time by the percentage reduction from pretax to post-tax inequalities, and decompose the changes in post-tax inequalities into different redistributive policies and changes in pretax inequalities. To estimate these redistributive statistics, we construct homogenous annual series of post-tax national income for France over the 1900-2018 period, and compare them with those recently constructed for the U.S. We obtain three major findings. First, redistribution has increased in both countries over the period, earlier in the U.S., later in France, to reach similar levels today. Second, the substantial long-run decline in post-tax inequality in France over the 1900-2018 period is due mostly to the fall in pretax inequality (accounting for three quarters of the total decline), and to a lesser extent to the direct redistributive role of taxes, transfers and other public spending (about one quarter). Third, the reason why overall inequality is much smaller in France than in the U.S. is entirely due to differences in pretax inequality. These findings suggest that policy discussions on inequality should, in the future, pay more attention to policies affecting pretax inequality and should not focus exclusively on "redistribution".

Suggested Citation

  • Antoine Bozio & Bertrand Garbinti & Jonathan Goupille-Lebret & Malka Guillot & Thomas Piketty, 2020. "Predistribution vs. Redistribution: Evidence from France and the U.S," Institut des Politiques Publiques halshs-03022092, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:ipppap:halshs-03022092
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://shs.hal.science/halshs-03022092
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    3. Bruno Bises & Francesco Bloise & Antonio ScialÃ, 2021. "Functional income distribution, inequality and the effectiveness of fiscal redistribution: evidence from OECD countries," Public Finance Research Papers 49, Istituto di Economia e Finanza, DSGE, Sapienza University of Rome.
    4. Carole Bonnet & Bertrand Garbinti & Anne Solaz, 2022. "Does Part-Time Mothering Help Get a Job? The Role of Shared Custody in Women’s Employment," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 38(5), pages 885-913, December.
    5. De Rosa, Mauricio & Flores, Ignacio & Morgan, Marc, 2022. "More Unequal or Not as Rich? Revisiting the Latin American Exception," SocArXiv akq89, Center for Open Science.
    6. Huet-Vaughn, Emiliano, 2023. "Minimum Wages and Voting: Assessing the Political Returns to Redistribution outside the Tax System," IZA Discussion Papers 16416, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2022. "Twenty Years and Counting: Thoughts about Measuring the Upper Tail," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 20(1), pages 255-264, March.
    8. Bruno Bises & Francesco Bloise & Antonio Scialà, 2024. "Labor share as an "automatic stabilizer" of income inequality," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 31(2), pages 511-532, April.
    9. François, Martin & Mertens de Wilmars, Sybille & Maréchal, Kevin, 2023. "Unlocking the potential of income and wealth caps in post-growth transformation: A framework for improving policy design," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 208(C).

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    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies

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