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A lost decade? Decomposing the effect of 2001-11 tax-benefit policy changes on the income distribution in EU countries

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  • John Hills
  • Alari Paulus
  • Holly Sutherland
  • Iva Tasseva

Abstract

This paper examines the extent to which tax and benefit policy changes introduced in the period 2001-11 had a poverty- or inequality-reducing effect. We assess whether the period was indeed a “missed opportunity” for policy changes to make a difference to poverty reduction since the Lisbon Treaty, given the general lack of improvement shown by poverty indicators. Our analysis uses the tax-benefit model EUROMOD and covers seven diverse EU countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom. We apply the Bargain and Callan (2010) decomposition approach, extending it by separating the effect due to structural policy changes and the indexation effect. We find that the latter was typically more effective in alleviating poverty and inequality than changes to the structure of policies. In fact, most of the structural changes that governments introduced, especially in the 2007-11 crisis-onset period, had poverty and inequality-increasing effects. We find considerable variation between countries in how different policy instruments have been adjusted, and in the effects of these adjustments by income, by age and by household composition, showing the importance of understanding them together, rather than discussing just some in isolation.

Suggested Citation

  • John Hills & Alari Paulus & Holly Sutherland & Iva Tasseva, 2014. "A lost decade? Decomposing the effect of 2001-11 tax-benefit policy changes on the income distribution in EU countries," ImPRovE Working Papers 14/03, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  • Handle: RePEc:hdl:improv:1403
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Olivier Bargain & Tim Callan, 2010. "Analysing the effects of tax-benefit reforms on income distribution: a decomposition approach," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 8(1), pages 1-21, March.
    2. Holly Sutherland & Ruth Hancock & John Hills & Francesca Zantomio, 2008. "Keeping up or Falling behind? The Impact of Benefit and Tax Uprating on Incomes and Poverty," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 29(4), pages 467-498, December.
    3. Olivier Bargain, 2012. "The Distributional Effects of Tax-benefit Policies under New Labour: A Decomposition Approach-super-," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 74(6), pages 856-874, December.
    4. François Bourguignon & Francisco Ferreira & Phillippe Leite, 2008. "Beyond Oaxaca–Blinder: Accounting for differences in household income distributions," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 6(2), pages 117-148, June.
    5. Avram, Silvia & Figari, Francesco & Leventi, Chrysa & Levy, Horacio & Navicke, Jekaterina & Matsaganis, Manos & Militaru, Eva & Paulus, Alari & Rastrigina, Olga & Sutherland, Holly, 2013. "The distributional effects of fiscal consolidation in nine EU countries," EUROMOD Working Papers EM2/13, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    6. Brewer, Mike & Wren-Lewis, Liam, 2012. "Accounting for changes in income inequality: decomposition analyses for Great Britain, 1968-2009," ISER Working Paper Series 2012-17, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
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    13. Herwig Immervoll & Horacio Levy & Christine Lietz & Daniela Mantovani & Holly Sutherland, 2006. "The sensitivity of poverty rates to macro-level changes in the European Union," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(2), pages 181-199, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Tassos Giannitsis & Stavros Zografakis, 2015. "Greece: Solidarity And Adjustment In Times Of Crisis," IMK Studies 38-2015, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    2. Mike Brewer & Liam Wren-Lewis, 2016. "Accounting for Changes in Income Inequality: Decomposition Analyses for the UK, 1978–2008," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 78(3), pages 289-322, June.
    3. De Agostini, Paola & Hills, John & Sutherland, Holly, 2015. "Were we really all in it together? The distributional effects of the 2010-2015 UK Coalition government's tax-benefit policy changes: an end-of-term update," EUROMOD Working Papers EM13/15, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    4. Wang, Jinxian & Caminada, Koen & Goudswaard, Kees & Wang, Chen, 2015. "Decomposing income polarization and tax-benefit changes across 31 European countries and Europe wide, 2004-2012," MPRA Paper 66155, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Tassos Giannitsis & Stavros Zografakis, 2018. "Crisis management in Greece," IMK Studies 58-2018, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    6. De Agostini, Paola & Paulus, Alari & Sutherland, Holly & Tasseva, Iva Valentinova, 2014. "The effect of tax-benefit changes on the income distribution in EU countries since the beginning of the economic crisis," EUROMOD Working Papers EM9/14, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    7. Ekaterina Tosheva & Iva Tasseva & Dragomir Draganov & Venelin Boshnakov, 2016. "Effects of changes in tax-transfer system on households income distribution in Bulgaria: simulation analysis using EUROMOD for 2011-2015," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 5, pages 51-71,72-91.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    tax-benefit policies; European Union; income distribution; income poverty; microsimulation; EUROMOD;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • 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
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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