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Fiscal Policy, Income Redistribution and Poverty Reduction in Low and Middle Income Countries

Listed author(s):
  • Nora Lustig

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Tulane University)

Current policy discussion focuses primarily on the power of fiscal policy to reduce inequality. Yet, comparable fiscal incidence analysis for twenty-eight low and middle income countries reveals that, although fiscal systems are always equalizing, that is not always true for poverty. In Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nicaragua, and Guatemala the extreme poverty headcount ratio is higher after taxes and transfers (excluding in-kind transfers) than before. In addition, to varying degrees, in all countries a portion of the poor are net payers into the fiscal system and are thus impoverished by the fiscal system. Consumption taxes are the main culprits of fiscally-induced impoverishment. Net direct taxes are always equalizing and indirect taxes net of subsidies are equalizing in nineteen countries of the twenty-eight. While spending on pre-school and primary school is pro-poor (i.e., the per capita transfer declines with income) in almost all countries, pro-poor secondary school spending is less prevalent, and tertiary education spending tends to be progressive only in relative terms (i.e., equalizing but not pro-poor). Health spending is always equalizing but not always pro-poor. More unequal countries devote more resources to redistributive spending and appear to redistribute more. The latter, however, is not a robust result across specifications.

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File URL: http://econ.tulane.edu/RePEc/pdf/tul1701.pdf
File Function: First Version, January 2017
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Paper provided by Tulane University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1701.

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Date of creation: Jan 2017
Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:1701
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  1. Maynor Cabrera, Nora Lustig, and Hilcías E. Morán, 2015. "Fiscal Policy, Inequality, and the Ethnic Divide in Guatemala - Working Paper 397," Working Papers 397, Center for Global Development.
  2. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-927, October.
  3. David E. Sahn & Stephen D. Younger, 2000. "Expenditure incidence in Africa: microeconomic evidence," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(3), pages 329-347, September.
  4. Sean Higgins & Nora Lustig & Whitney Ruble & Timothy Smeeding, 2013. "Comparing the Incidence of Taxes and Social Spending in Brazil and the United States," Working Papers 1317, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  5. Maynor Cabrera & Nora Lustig & Hilcías E. Morán, 2014. "Fiscal policy, inequality and the ethnic divide in Guatemala," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 20, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  6. Sandra Martinez-Aguilar & Alan Fuchs & Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez & Giselle Del Carmen, 2017. "The Impact of Fiscal Policy on Inequality and Poverty in Chile," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 46, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  7. Martinez Aguilar,Sandra Natalia & Fuchs Tarlovsky,Alan & Ortiz-Juarez,Eduardo & Del Carmen Hasbun,Giselle Eugenia, 2017. "The impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty in Chile," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7939, The World Bank.
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