Modelling the Composition of Government Expenditure in Democracies
This paper considers whether the ratio of transfer payments to expenditure on public goods in democracies can be explained as the outcome of majority voting. A simple model is constructed in which individuals vote for government expenditure on a public good, for a given income tax rate. The transfer payment is then determined by the government’s budget constraint. The equilibrium ratio of transfers to public good expenditure per person is expressed as a quadratic function both of the ratio of the median to the mean wage, and of the tax rate. Data for 29 democratic countries are used to estimate a cross-sectional regression. The empirical results confirm that reductions in the skewness of the wage rate distribution are associated with reductions in transfer payments relative to public goods expenditure, at a decreasing rate. Furthermore, increases in the tax rate, from relatively low levels, are associated with increases in the relative importance of transfer payments. But beyond a certain level, further tax rate increases are associated with a lower ratio of transfers to public goods.
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