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Disentangling income inequality and the redistributive effect of taxes and transfers in 20 LIS countries over time

  • Caminada, Koen
  • Goudswaard, Kees
  • Wang, Chen

In most OECD countries the gap between rich and poor has widened over the past decades. This paper analyzes whether and to what extent taxes and social transfers have contributed to this trend. Has the redistributive power of different social programs changed over time? The paper contributes to the literature by disentangling several parts of fiscal redistribution in a comparative setting. We use micro-data from the Luxembourg Income Study to examine household market inequality, redistribution from transfers and taxes, and the underlying social programs that drive the changes, for 20 countries from the mid-1980s to mid-2000s. The contribution of each program is estimated using a sequential accounting budget incidence decomposition technique. The aim of this paper is to offer detailed information on the redistributive impact of social transfer programs. We focus on changes in fiscal redistribution of 13 different social programs and taxes. We observe a sizeable increase in primary household inequality in all 20 countries over the last 25 years (except Ireland). In most countries, the extent of redistribution has increased too. Tax-benefit systems have offset two-third of the average increase in primary income inequality, although they appear to have become less effective in doing so since the mid-1990s. We find that the public old age pensions and the survivors scheme attribute 60 percent to the increase of redistribution during the period 1985-2005 for a subset of countries considered (with full tax/benefit information). Social assistance accounts for 20 percent, and the benefits for sickness, disease, and disability account for around 13 percent of the total increase in redistribution. Other transfers (invalid career benefits, education benefits, child care cash benefits and other child and family benefits) account for 22 percent of the total increase in redistribution. On the contrary, taxes slowed down redistribution by 17 percent during 1985-2005.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 42350.

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Date of creation: 10 Sep 2012
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:42350
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  1. Peter Whiteford, 2010. "The Australian Tax‐Transfer System: Architecture and Outcomes," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 86(275), pages 528-544, December.
  2. Fuest, Clemens & Niehues, Judith & Peichl, Andreas, 2009. "The Redistributive Effects of Tax Benefit Systems in the Enlarged EU," IZA Discussion Papers 4520, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Danziger, Sheldon & Haveman, Robert & Plotnick, Robert, 1981. "How Income Transfer Programs Affect Work, Savings, and the Income Distribution: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 975-1028, September.
  4. Michael Förster & Peter Whiteford, 2009. "How much Redistribution do Welfare States Achieve? The Role of Cash Transfers and Household Taxes," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 7(3), pages 34-41, October.
  5. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard, 2001. "International Trends in Income Inequality and Social Policy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 395-415, August.
  6. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  7. Immervoll, Herwig & Levy, Horacio & Lietz, Christine & Mantovani, Daniela & O'Donoghue, Cathal & Sutherland, Holly & Verbist, Gerlinde, 2006. "Household Incomes and Redistribution in the European Union: Quantifying the Equalising Properties of Taxes and Benefits," Economics Series 184, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  8. Blinder, Alan S & Esaki, Howard Y, 1978. "Macroeconomic Activity and Income Distribution in the Postwar United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(4), pages 604-09, November.
  9. Caminada, Koen & Goudswaard, Kees, 2008. "Effectiveness of poverty reduction in the EU: A descriptive analysis," MPRA Paper 20167, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Paul, Satya, 2004. "Income sources effects on inequality," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 435-451, February.
  11. Heisz, Andrew, 2007. "Income Inequality and Redistribution in Canada: 1976 to 2004," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2007298e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  12. H. Naci Mocan, 1999. "Structural Unemployment, Cyclical Unemployment, and Income Inequality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(1), pages 122-134, February.
  13. Palme, Marten, 1996. "Income distribution effects of the Swedish 1991 tax reform: An analysis of a microsimulation using generalized Kakwani decomposition," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 419-443, August.
  14. Rebecca M. Blank & David Card, 1993. "Poverty, Income Distribution, and Growth: Are They Still Connected," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 24(2), pages 285-340.
  15. Andrea Brandolini & Timothy M. Smeeding, 2007. "Inequality Patterns in Western-Type Democracies: Cross-Country Differences and Time Changes," CHILD Working Papers wp08_07, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
  16. Caminada, Koen & Goudswaard, Kees, 2004. "Are public and private social expenditures complementary?," MPRA Paper 20179, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  17. Van Vliet, Olaf & Been, Jim & Caminada, Koen & Goudswaard, Kees, 2011. "Pension reform and income inequality among the elderly in 15 European countries," MPRA Paper 32940, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  18. Wang, Chen & Caminada, Koen, 2011. "Disentangling income inequality and the redistributive effect of social transfers and taxes in 36 LIS countries," MPRA Paper 32821, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  19. R. A. Musgrave & Tun Thin, 1948. "Income Tax Progression, 1929-48," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 498.
  20. Lerman, Robert I & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1985. "Income Inequality Effects by Income," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 151-56, February.
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