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Unequal Inequalities: Do Progressive Taxes Reduce Income Inequality?

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  • Duncan, Denvil

    () (Indiana University)

  • Peter, Klara Sabirianova

    () (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effect of changes in structural progressivity of national income tax systems on observed and actual income inequality. Using several unique measures of progressivity over the 1981-2005 period for a large panel of countries, we find that progressivity reduces inequality in observed income, but has a significantly smaller impact on actual inequality, approximated by consumption-based GINIs. We show empirically that the differential effect on observed vs. actual inequality is much larger in countries with weaker legal institutions. Substantial differences in inequality response to changes in top vs. bottom rates are also uncovered. The paper discusses implications of these results for flat tax policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Duncan, Denvil & Peter, Klara Sabirianova, 2012. "Unequal Inequalities: Do Progressive Taxes Reduce Income Inequality?," IZA Discussion Papers 6910, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6910
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Costas Meghir, 1998. "Estimating Labor Supply Responses Using Tax Reforms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(4), pages 827-862, July.
    2. Slemrod, Joel & Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2002. "The optimal elasticity of taxable income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 91-112, April.
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    8. Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Klara Sabirianova Peter, 2009. "Myth and Reality of Flat Tax Reform: Micro Estimates of Tax Evasion Response and Welfare Effects in Russia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, pages 504-554.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eco:journ1:2017-04-55 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Duncan, Denvil, 2014. "Behavioral responses and the distributional effects of the Russian ‘flat’ tax," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 226-240.
    3. repec:eee:inteco:v:150:y:2017:i:c:p:80-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Richard M. Bird & Eric M. Zolt, 2014. "Taxation and inequality in the Americas: Changing the fiscal contract?," Chapters,in: Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link?, chapter 7, pages 193-237 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Stanley L. Winer, 2016. "The Political Economy of Taxation: Power, Structure, Redistribution," Carleton Economic Papers 16-15, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
    6. Yongzheng Liu & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, 2010. "The Growth-Inequality Tradeo in the Design of Tax Structure: Evidence from a Large Panel of Countries," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1320, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    7. Denvil Duncan & Ed Gerrish, 2014. "Personal income tax mimicry: evidence from international panel data," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(1), pages 119-152, February.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    income inequality; Gini; personal income tax; structural progressivity; tax evasion;

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy

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