IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Income Inequality and Poverty in Colombia - Part 2. The Redistributive Impact of Taxes and Transfers


  • Isabelle Joumard


  • Juliana Londoño Vélez



Income inequality in Colombia has declined since the early 2000s but remains very high by international standards. While most of the inequality originates from the labour market, wealth – and thus capital income – is also highly concentrated and the tax and transfer system has little redistributive impact. The tax-to-GDP ratio remains low. Consumption taxes, which tend to be regressive, account for the bulk. The progressivity of income taxes had been undermined by generous tax reliefs, which benefit the well-off most and increase tax avoidance opportunities. The tax system should be reformed to enhance progressivity and raise more revenue which could be used to expand social policies. Cash transfers to households are small and dominated by non-redistributive schemes such as contributory pensions. Education coverage has increased steadily but quality and equity in access at the tertiary level remain important issues. Though significant progress has been made towards universal health coverage, the financing and organisation of the health care system could be improved to raise the quality of care and reduce adverse incentives to remain in the informal sector. Inégalités de revenu et pauvreté en Colombie - Partie 2. L'impact redistributif des impôts et prestations sociales Les inégalités de revenu se sont atténuées depuis le début des années 2000 mais elles restent beaucoup plus fortes que dans la plupart des autres pays. Si le fonctionnement du marché du travail est le principal facteur à l'origine de ces inégalités, il convient de noter que la richesse – et donc les revenus du capital – est aussi très inégalement répartie alors que les impôts et prestations sociales n'ont qu'un faible impact redistributif. Le montant des prélèvements obligatoires en pourcentage du PIB reste faible. Les taxes sur la consommation, qui tendent à être régressives, ont un poids prépondérant. La progressivité des impôts sur le revenu est amoindrie par les dispositifs d'allègements qui bénéficient aux plus fortunés et favorisent l'évasion fiscale. Le système fiscal devrait être réformé afin de renforcer sa progressivité et d'augmenter les recettes qui pourraient être utilisées pour mettre en place des politiques sociales plus ambitieuses. Les prestations sociales sont peu élevées et dominées par des programmes non-redistributifs, en particulier les pensions contributives. Les taux de scolarisation ont augmenté mais la qualité de l'éducation et l'équité d'accès, en particulier pour l'université, restent des défis importants. De même pour la santé, si des progrès remarquables ont été faits concernant la couverture, rendue presque universelle, le financement et l'organisation du système de santé pourraient être réformés afin d'augmenter la qualité des soins et de réduire les incitations au travail informel.

Suggested Citation

  • Isabelle Joumard & Juliana Londoño Vélez, 2013. "Income Inequality and Poverty in Colombia - Part 2. The Redistributive Impact of Taxes and Transfers," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1037, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1037-en

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Juan Esteban Saavedra & Carlos Medina, 2012. "Formación para el Trabajo en Colombia," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 010059, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    2. Alejandro Hoyos & Ximena Peña & Hugo R. Ñopo, 2010. "The Persistent Gender Earnings Gap in Colombia, 1994-2006," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 1802, Inter-American Development Bank.
    3. Manuel Fernández & Ana María Ibáñez & Ximena Peña, 2014. "Adjusting the Labour Supply to Mitigate Violent Shocks: Evidence from Rural Colombia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(8), pages 1135-1155, August.
    4. Peter Hoeller & Isabelle Joumard & Mauro Pisu & Debra Bloch, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are They Compatible? Part 1. Mapping Income Inequality Across the OECD," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 924, OECD Publishing.
    5. Esther Duflo & Rema Hanna & Stephen P. Ryan, 2012. "Incentives Work: Getting Teachers to Come to School," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1241-1278, June.
    6. Roberto Angulo & Alejandro Gaviria & Gustavo Nicolás Páez & Joao Pedro Azevedo, 2012. "Movilidad social en Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 010323, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    7. Alejandro Badel & Ximena Peña, 2010. "Decomposing the Gender Wage Gap with Sample Selection Adjustment: Evidence from Colombia," Revista de Analisis Economico – Economic Analysis Review, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines, vol. 25(2), pages 169-191, Diciembre.
    8. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Darío Maldonado & Catherine Rodríguez, 2012. "Calidad de la Educación Básica y Media en Colombia: Diagnóstico y Propuestas," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 010321, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    9. Adriana Camacho & Emily Conover & Alejandro Hoyos, 2014. "Effects of Colombia's Social Protection System on Workers' Choice between Formal and Informal Employment," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(3), pages 446-466.
    10. Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Jérémie Gignoux, 2014. "The Measurement of Educational Inequality: Achievement and Opportunity," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(2), pages 210-246.
    11. Camilo Mondragón-Vélez & Ximena Peña & Daniel Wills, 2010. "Labor Market Rigidities and Informality in Colombia," ECONOMIA JOURNAL, THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION - LACEA, vol. 0(Fall 2010), pages 65-101, August.
    12. Andrea Bassanini & Romain Duval, 2006. "Employment Patterns in OECD Countries: Reassessing the Role of Policies and Institutions," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 35, OECD Publishing.
    13. Ana María Ibañez & Andrés Moya, 2010. "Do Conflicts Create Poverty Traps? Asset Losses and Recovery for Displaced Households in Colombia," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 137-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. James J. Heckman, 2008. "The Case for Investing in Disadvantaged Young Children," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 6(2), pages 3-8, 07.
    15. Bernal Raquel, 2009. "The Informal Labor Market in Colombia: identification and characterization," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, September.
    16. Ibáñez, Ana María & Moya, Andrés, 2010. "Vulnerability of Victims of Civil Conflicts: Empirical Evidence for the Displaced Population in Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 647-663, April.
    17. Mauro Pisu, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are they Compatible? Part 5. Poverty in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 928, OECD Publishing.
    18. Moller, Lars Christian, 2012. "Fiscal policy in Colombia : tapping its potential for a more equitable society," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6092, The World Bank.
    19. Isabell Koske & Jean-Marc Fournier & Isabelle Wanner, 2012. "Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are They Compatible? Part 2. The Distribution of Labour Income," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 925, OECD Publishing.
    20. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Development: Which Way Now?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(372), pages 742-762, December.
    21. Isabelle Joumard & Juliana Londoño Vélez, 2013. "Income Inequality and Poverty in Colombia - Part 2. The Redistributive Impact of Taxes and Transfers," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1037, OECD Publishing.
    22. Marc Hofstetter, 2006. "La política monetaria y la Corte Constitucional: el caso del salario mínimo," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 8(14), pages 105-124, January-J.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Paula Herrera-Idárraga & Enrique López-Bazo & Elisabet Motellón, 2016. "Regional Wage Gaps, Education and Informality in an Emerging Country: The Case of Colombia," Spatial Economic Analysis, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(4), pages 432-456, October.
    2. Isabelle Joumard & Juliana Londoño Vélez, 2013. "Income Inequality and Poverty in Colombia - Part 1. The Role of the Labour Market," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1036, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item


    Colombia; Colombie; conditional cash transfers; education; health; impôt sur la propriété; impôt sur la valeur ajoutée; impôt sur le revenu; inequality; inégalités; pensions; pensions; personal income tax; prestations sociales conditionnelles; property tax; santé; subventions pour l'eau et l'électricité; value added tax; water and electricity subsidies; éducation;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1037-en. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.