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Fiscal Policies and their Impact on Income Distribution in India


  • Sridhar Kundu
  • Maynor Cabrera


Fiscal policies play a key role in reshaping income distribution in India. There are differences in policies at the Union, State, and Municipal or city level, which have an individual and combined impact on the country’s standard of living. These policies include decisions on direct and indirect taxes, subsidies, pensions, and other direct transfers, as well as public spending on education and health. This Commitment to Equity (CEQ) study tries to analyse the individual and combined impact of these policies on poverty and income distribution in India. The report has used household consumption expenditure data from the National Sample Survey (NSS) of such expenditure, undertaken in 2011-12, as the base for its income-distribution analysis. It has also used other surveys, such as the NSS survey of household consumption expenditure on Education and Health, conducted in 2014, the Indian Human Development Survey, and NSS Employment and Unemployment survey in 2011-12, to impute values of cash and in-kind transfers, as well as direct taxes. After a detailed examination of all the policies, we found that government interventions play a significant role in reshaping income distribution by reducing poverty and inequality. India’s taxation policies are progressive, as the lion’s share of taxes is collected from the top 10 per cent of the population. Similarly, policies such as the Public Distribution System (PDS) subsidy, spending on education and health, and direct cash transfers through the rural employment scheme MGNREGS play an equalising role in overall income distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Sridhar Kundu & Maynor Cabrera, 2022. "Fiscal Policies and their Impact on Income Distribution in India," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 120, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tul:ceqwps:120

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dang, Hai-Anh H. & Lanjouw, Peter F., 2020. "Welfare Dynamics in India over a Quarter Century: Poverty, Vulnerability, and Mobility during 1987-2012," GLO Discussion Paper Series 535, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
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    3. Mr. David Coady & Delphine Prady, 2018. "Universal Basic Income in Developing Countries: Issues, Options, and Illustration for India," IMF Working Papers 2018/174, International Monetary Fund.
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    5. Ellen Ehmke, 2016. "India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act: Assessing the quality of access and adequacy of benefits in MGNREGS public works," International Social Security Review, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 69(2), pages 3-27, April.
    6. Rodrigo Cubero & Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, 2010. "Equity and Fiscal Policy: The Income Distribution Effects of Taxation and Social Spending in Central America," IMF Working Papers 2010/112, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Unnikrishnan, Vidhya & Imai, Katsushi S., 2020. "Does the old-age pension scheme improve household welfare? Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
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    More about this item


    Fiscal Policies; poverty; inequality; direct and indirect taxes; PDS; Electricity Subsidy; MGNREGS; Pensions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy; Modern Monetary Theory
    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • 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

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