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From Competition to Constitution: Races to Bottoms and the Rise of ‘Shadow’ Social Europe

  • Eloi Laurent


In this paper, I examine how the specific nature of economic integration in the European Union has affected member states’ redistribution policies over the last two decades. More precisely, I attempt to detail the effect of social-tax competition between member states within social mod-els, processes that I label “races to bottoms.” In this framework, I identify the emergence of an informal set of rules effectively constraining national redistribution policies in different ways, given the diversity of tax-social compacts in the EU. Because these rules are implicit and their ef-fect generally underestimated, I gather them under the notion of “shadow” social Europe. Hav-ing empirically assessed the impact of this dynamic on the “continental,” the “Nordic,” the “eastern” and the “liberal” social-tax compact, I finally try to present a normative perspective and some policy options on this matter.

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Paper provided by Sciences Po in its series Sciences Po publications with number 137.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/3530
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  1. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2003. "Social insurance competition between Bismarck and Beveridge," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 181-196, July.
  2. David E. Wildasin, 2005. "Global Competition for Mobile Resources: Implications for Equity, Efficiency, and Political Economy," Working Papers 2005-08, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
  3. Hannes Winner, 2005. "Has Tax Competition Emerged in OECD Countries? Evidence from Panel Data," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 12(5), pages 667-687, September.
  4. Bucovetsky, S., 1991. "Asymmetric tax competition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 167-181, September.
  5. André Sapir & Philippe Aghion & Giuseppe Bertola & Martin Hellwig & Jean Pisani-Ferry & Bernard Lange & José Viñals & Helen Wallace & Marco Buti & Mario Nava & Peter Smith, 2004. "An agenda for a growing Europe: the Sapir report," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/8070, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  6. Wilson, J.D., 1990. "Tax Competition With Interregional Differences In Factor Endowments," Working Papers 4, John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy.
  7. Jan K. Brueckner, 1999. "Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom: Theory and Evidence," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 505-525, January.
  8. Jerome Creel & Eloi Laurent & Jacques Le Cacheux, 2005. "Delegation in inconsistency: the Lisbon strategy record as an institutional failure," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2005-07, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  9. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective," NBER Working Papers 11955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Genschel, Philipp, 2004. "Globalisation and the welfare state: A retrospective," TranState Working Papers 3, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
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