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Removing the Veil of Ignorance in Assessing the Distributional Impacts of Social Policies

Author

Listed:
  • Carneiro, Pedro

    () (University College London)

  • Hansen, Karsten T.

    () (Northwestern University)

  • Heckman, James J.

    () (University of Chicago)

Abstract

This paper summarizes our recent research on evaluating the distributional consequences of social programs. This research advances the economic policy evaluation literature beyond estimating assorted mean impacts to estimate distributions of outcomes generated by different policies and determine how those policies shift persons across the distributions of potential outcomes produced by them. Our approach enables analysts to evaluate the distributional effects of social programs without invoking the “Veil of Ignorance” assumption often used in the literature in applied welfare economics. Our methods determine which persons are affected by a given policy, where they come from in the ex-ante outcome distribution and what their gains are. We apply our methods to analyze two proposed policy reforms in American education. These reforms benefit the middle class and not the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Carneiro, Pedro & Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J., 2002. "Removing the Veil of Ignorance in Assessing the Distributional Impacts of Social Policies," IZA Discussion Papers 453, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp453
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political economics and macroeconomic policy," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 22, pages 1397-1482 Elsevier.
    2. James J. Heckman, 2001. "Micro Data, Heterogeneity, and the Evaluation of Public Policy: Nobel Lecture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 673-748, August.
    3. James J. Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 2005. "Structural Equations, Treatment Effects, and Econometric Policy Evaluation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(3), pages 669-738, May.
    4. Sen, Amartya, 2000. "Social justice and the distribution of income," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 59-85 Elsevier.
    5. Heckman, James J & Honore, Bo E, 1990. "The Empirical Content of the Roy Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1121-1149, September.
    6. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
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    13. Bjorklund, Anders & Moffitt, Robert, 1987. "The Estimation of Wage Gains and Welfare Gains in Self-selection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 42-49, February.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Policy Evaluation; Distributional Effects; Social programs;

    JEL classification:

    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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