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Distributional Consequences of Fiscal Consolidation and the Role of Fiscal Policy: What Do the Data Say?

  • Jaejoon Woo
  • Elva Bova
  • Tidiane Kinda
  • Yuanyan Sophia Zhang

The 2007-09 Great Recession has led to an unprecedented increase in public debt in many countries, triggering substantial fiscal adjustments. What are the distributional consequences of fiscal austerity measures? This is an important policy question. This paper analyzes the effects of fiscal policies on income inequality in a panel of advanced and emerging market economies over the last three decades, complemented by a case study of selected consolidation episodes. The paper shows that fiscal consolidations are likely to raise inequality through various channels including their effects on unemployment. Spending-based consolidations tend to worsen inequality more significantly, relative to tax-based consolidations. The composition of austerity measures also matters: progressive taxation and targeted social benefits and subsidies introduced in the context of a broader decline in spending can help offset some of the adverse distributional impact of consolidation. In addition, fiscal policy can favorably influence long-term trends in both inequality and growth by promoting education and training among low- and middle-income workers.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 13/195.

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Length: 37
Date of creation: 17 Sep 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:13/195
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  1. John M. Piotrowski & David Coady & Justin Tyson & Rolando Ossowski & Robert Gillingham & Shamsuddin Tareq, 2010. "Petroleum Product Subsidies: Costly, Inequitable, and On the Rise," IMF Staff Position Notes 2010/05, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Giovanni S.F. Bruno, 2005. "Estimation and inference in dynamic unbalanced panel data models with a small number of individuals," KITeS Working Papers 165, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Jun 2005.
  3. Francesca Bastagli & David Coady & Sanjeev Gupta, 2012. "Income Inequality and Fiscal Policy (2nd Edition)," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 12/08R, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  6. Luca Agnello & Ricardo M. Sousa, 2014. "How Does Fiscal Consolidation Impact on Income Inequality?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(4), pages 702-726, December.
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