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Income redistribution through taxes and transfers across OECD countries

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  • Orsetta Causa
  • Mikkel Hermansen

Abstract

This paper produces a comprehensive assessment of income redistribution to the working-age population, covering OECD countries over the last two decades. Redistribution is quantified as the relative reduction in market income inequality achieved by personal income taxes, employees’ social security contributions and cash transfers, based on household-level micro data. A detailed decomposition analysis uncovers the respective roles of size, tax progressivity and transfer targeting for overall redistribution, the respective role of various categories of transfers for transfer redistribution; as well as redistribution for various income groups. The paper shows a widespread decline in redistribution across the OECD, both on average and in the majority of countries for which data going back to the mid-1990s are available. This was primarily associated with a decline in cash transfer redistribution while personal income taxes played a less important and more heterogeneous role across countries. In turn, the decline in the redistributive effect of cash transfers reflected a decline in their size and in particular by less redistributive insurance transfers. In some countries, this was mitigated by more redistributive assistance transfers but the resulting increase in the targeting of total transfers was not sufficient to prevent transfer redistribution from declining.

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  • Orsetta Causa & Mikkel Hermansen, 2017. "Income redistribution through taxes and transfers across OECD countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1453, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1453-en
    DOI: 10.1787/bc7569c6-en
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    1. Younes Zouhar & Jon Jellema & Nora Lustig & Mohamed Trabelsi, 2021. "Public Expenditure and Inclusive Growth - A Survey," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 109, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    2. Pierce O’Reilly, 2018. "Tax policies for inclusive growth in a changing world," OECD Taxation Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
    3. Gründler, Klaus & Köllner, Sebastian, 2020. "Culture, diversity, and the welfare state," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 913-932.
    4. Paolo Caro, 2020. "Decomposing Personal Income Tax Redistribution with Application to Italy," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 18(1), pages 113-129, March.
    5. Maximilian Joseph Blömer & Clemens Fuest & Andreas Peichl, 2019. "Raus aus der Niedrigeinkommensfalle(!) – Der ifo-Vorschlag zur Reform des Grundsicherungssystems," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 72(04), pages 34-43, February.
    6. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard & Chen Wang & Jinxian Wang, 2019. "Income Inequality and Fiscal Redistribution in 31 Countries After the Crisis," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 61(1), pages 119-148, March.
    7. d’Agostino, Giorgio & Pieroni, Luca & Scarlato, Margherita, 2020. "Social transfers and income inequality in OECD countries," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 313-327.
    8. Manuel Bétin & Tim Bulman & Thomas Chalaux & Boris Cournède & Alain de Serres & Claude Giorno & Yvan Guillemette, 2020. "OECD contribution to the evaluation of the ESM financial assistance programme for Greece," Discussion Papers 12, European Stability Mechanism, revised 27 Oct 2021.
    9. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard & Chen Wang & Jinxian Wang, 2021. "Antipoverty Effects of Various Social Transfers and Income Taxes Across Countries," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 154(3), pages 1055-1076, April.
    10. Xabier Garcia-Fuente, 2021. "The Paradox of Redistribution in Time. Social Spending in 53 Countries, 1967-2018," LIS Working papers 815, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    11. Giorgio d'Agostino & Luca Pieroni & Margherita Scarlato, 2018. "Further evidence of the relationship between social transfers and income inequality in OECD countries," Working Papers 482, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    12. Gupta, Sanjeev & Jalles, João Tovar, 2022. "Do tax reforms affect income distribution? Evidence from developing countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 110(C).
    13. Michaël Sicsic, 2020. "Does Labor Income React more to Income Tax or Means-Tested Benefit Reforms?," TEPP Working Paper 2020-03, TEPP.
    14. Saraceno, Chiara, 2019. "Retrenching, recalibrating, pre-distributing. The welfare state facing old and new inequalities," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 35-41.
    15. Alari Paulus & Caroline Klein, 2019. "Effects of tax-benefit policies on the income distribution and work incentives in Estonia," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1570, OECD Publishing.
    16. Koen Caminada & Jinxian Wang & Kees Goudswaard & Chen Wang, 2019. "Relative Income Poverty Rates and Poverty Alleviation via Tax/benefit Systems in 49 LIS-Countries, 1967-2016," LIS Working papers 761, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    17. Malgorzata Szczepaniak, 2020. "Redistribution and the alleviation of income inequalities: the case of the European Union," Ekonomia i Prawo, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, vol. 19(1), pages 149-161, March.
    18. Orsetta Causa & Nicolas Woloszko & David Leite, 2020. "Housing, Wealth Accumulation and Wealth Distribution: Evidence and Stylized Facts," LWS Working papers 30, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    19. Alastair Thomas, 2022. "Reassessing the regressivity of the VAT," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 43(1), pages 23-38, March.
    20. Marjan Petreski & Despina Tumanoska & Bojana Josifovska, 2019. "Good or bad tax? Assessing the early effects of the progressive and higher personal income tax in North Macedonia," Finance Think Policy Studies 2019-06/24, Finance Think - Economic Research and Policy Institute.
    21. Battisti, Michele & Zeira, Joseph, 2018. "Inequality and Public Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 13134, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    22. Orsetta Causa & Anna Vindics & Oguzhan Akgun, 2018. "An empirical investigation on the drivers of income redistribution across OECD countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1488, OECD Publishing.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    income inequality; progressivity; redistribution; taxes; transfers;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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