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Understanding the relative generosity of government financial support for families with children

Author

Listed:
  • James Banks

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Manchester)

  • Mike Brewer

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Essex)

Abstract

The principal of horizontal equity can be interpreted as requiring that households with the same pre-transfer incomes and the same consumption needs should receive the same post-transfer incomes. We argue the generosity of government financial support to families with children should be analysed with respect to such a baseline. Although not without problems, equivalence scales form an important part of such a procedure. The comparison of financial support to families with children with a corresponding equivalence scale, both over time and between countries, should give a more accurate picture of generosity than comparisons of cash values alone. We discuss potential advantages and drawbacks of such comparisons, illustrating with comparisons of the US and UK systems. The main drawback is that we can only evaluate the generosity of support for children relative to that for adults. With this restriction, horizontal equity is more likely to be achieved for couples with 1 child than for those with 2 children. For some groups, the US is more generous to children (relative to adults) than the UK, but this difference is partly generated by the US system being less generous to childless households than the UK.

Suggested Citation

  • James Banks & Mike Brewer, 2002. "Understanding the relative generosity of government financial support for families with children," IFS Working Papers W02/02, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:02/02
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    File URL: http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp0202.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Banks, James & Johnson, Paul, 1994. "Equivalence Scale Relativities Revisited," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(425), pages 883-890, July.
    2. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Julian McCrae & Costas Meghir, 2000. "The labour market impact of the working families’ tax credit," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(1), pages 75-103, March.
    3. Rebecca M. Blank & David Card & Philip K. Robins, 1999. "Financial Incentives for Increasing Work and Income Among Low-Income Families," JCPR Working Papers 69, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    4. McClements, L. D., 1979. "Muellbauer on equivalence scales," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 233-242, October.
    5. Muellbauer, John, 1979. "Reply to McClements," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 243-243, October.
    6. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 1999. "Making Single Mothers Work: Recent Tax and Welfare Policy and its Effects," JCPR Working Papers 152, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    7. Mike Brewer, 2001. "Comparing in-work benefits and the reward to work for families with children in the US and the UK," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 41-77, January.
    8. Pollak, Robert A & Wales, Terence J, 1979. "Welfare Comparisons and Equivalence Scales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 216-221, May.
    9. Edgar O. Olsen, 2003. "Housing Programs for Low-Income Households," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 365-442 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Kevin Milligan, 2005. "Subsidizing the Stork: New Evidence on Tax Incentives and Fertility," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 539-555, August.
    11. David G. Blanchflower & Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blan00-1, July.
    12. Muellbauer, John, 1979. "McClements on equivalence scales for children," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 221-231, October.
    13. Coulter, Fiona A E & Cowell, Frank A & Jenkins, Stephen P, 1992. "Equivalence Scale Relativities and the Extent of Inequality and Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(414), pages 1067-1082, September.
    14. McClements, L. D., 1977. "Equivalence scales for children," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 191-210, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dr Justin van de Ven, 2004. "Estimating Equivalence Scales for Tax and Benefits Systems," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 229, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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