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Do poorer countries have less capacity for redistribution ?

  • Ravallion, Martin

Development aid and policy discussions often assume that poorer countries have less internal capacity for redistribution in favor of their poorest citizens. The assumption is tested using data for 90 developing countries. The capacity for redistribution is measured by the marginal tax rate on those who are not poor by rich-country standards that is needed to cover the poverty gap or to provide a poverty-level of basic income, judged by developing-country standards. For most (but not all) countries with annual consumption per capita under $2,000 (at 2005 purchasing power parity) the required tax burdens are found to be prohibitive-often calling for marginal tax rates of 100 percent or more. By contrast, the required tax rates are quite low (1 percent on average) among all countries with consumption per capita over $4,000, as well as some poorer countries. Most countries fall into one of two groups: those with little or no realistic prospect of addressing extreme poverty through redistribution from the"rich"and those that would appear to have ample scope for such redistribution. Economic growth tends to move countries from the first group to the second. Thus the appropriate balance between growth and redistribution strategies can be seen to depend on the level economic development.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5046.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2009
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5046
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  1. Norman Gemmell & Oliver Morrissey, 2005. "Distribution and Poverty Impacts of Tax Structure Reform in Developing Countries: How Little We Know," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 23(2), pages 131-144, 03.
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  3. Herwig Immervoll, 2004. "Average and Marginal Effective Tax Rates Facing Workers in the EU: A Micro-Level Analysis of Levels, Distributions and Driving Factors," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 19, OECD Publishing.
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  8. Anand, Sudhir, 1977. "Aspects of Poverty in Malaysia," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 23(1), pages 1-16, March.
  9. Marcelo Medeiros, 2006. "The Rich and the Poor: The Construction of an Affluence Line from the Poverty Line," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 78(1), pages 1-18, 08.
  10. Ariel Fiszbein & Norbert Schady & Francisco H.G. Ferreira & Margaret Grosh & Niall Keleher & Pedro Olinto & Emmanuel Skoufias, 2009. "Conditional Cash Transfers : Reducing Present and Future Poverty," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2597, December.
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