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Back to the future - decomposition analysis of distributive policies using behavioural simulations


  • Olivier Bargain


For policy makers and analysts, it is important to isolate the redistributive impact of tax-benefit policy changes from changes in the environment in which policies operate. When actual reforms are motivated by work incentives, it is also crucial to evaluate behavioural responses and the distributional consequences thereof. For that purpose, we embed counterfactual simulations in a formal framework based on the Shapley value decomposition and quantify the relative roles of (i) tax-benefit policy changes (direct policy effect), (ii) labour supply responses to the policy reforms (in- direct effect) and (iii) all other factors affecting income distribution over time. An application to the UK shows that the redistributive reforms of the 1998-2001 period have offset the increase in inequality that would have occurred otherwise. They also contribute to a strong decline in child poverty and poverty amongst single parent households. In the latter group, a third of the headcount poverty reduction (and half of the reduction in the depth of poverty) is on account of the very large incentive effect of policy changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Bargain, 2010. "Back to the future - decomposition analysis of distributive policies using behavioural simulations," Working Papers 201032, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201032

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philippe Van Kerm, 2004. "What Lies Behind Income Mobility? Reranking and Distributional Change in Belgium, Western Germany and the USA," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 71(281), pages 223-239, May.
    2. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexis Eidelman & Fabrice Langumier & Augustin Vicard, 2013. "Prélèvements et transferts aux ménages : des canaux redistributifs différents en 1990 et 2010," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 459(1), pages 5-26.
    2. John Creedy & Nicolas Hérault, 2011. "Decomposing Inequality and Social Welfare Changes: The Use of Alternative Welfare Metrics," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2011n08, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    3. MAZEIKAITE Gintare & O'DONOGHUE Cathal & SOLOGON Denisa, 2017. "Decomposing health inequality in the EU," LISER Working Paper Series 2017-02, LISER.
    4. Creedy, John, 2013. "Alternative Distributions for Inequality and Poverty Comparisons," Working Paper Series 2851, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.

    More about this item


    Tax-benefi?t policy; Inequality; Poverty; Shapley value decomposition; Labour supply; Behavioural microsimulation; Fiscal policy; Income distribution; Decomposition (Mathematics); Labor supply;

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty


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