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Income Inequality and the Size of Government: A Causal Analysis

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  • Guzi, Martin
  • Kahanec, Martin

Abstract

Expansion of the public sector and redistributive policies may reduce income inequality, but formal tests suffer from the problem of endogeneity of government size with respect to the distribution of income. Studying 30 European countries over the period 2004-2015, we apply instrumental variable estimation techniques to identify a causal relationship between income inequality and government size, measured as the government expenditure share in GDP. Using a novel instrument – the number of political parties in the ruling coalition – we find that accounting for the possible endogeneity of government size increases the magnitude of the estimated negative effects. Our findings thus suggest that much of the literature underestimates the true role of the government in attenuating income inequality. The estimated relationship between income inequality and government size persists in a series of robustness checks.

Suggested Citation

  • Guzi, Martin & Kahanec, Martin, 2019. "Income Inequality and the Size of Government: A Causal Analysis," GLO Discussion Paper Series 381, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:381
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Arellano, Manuel & Bover, Olympia, 1995. "Another look at the instrumental variable estimation of error-components models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-51, July.
    2. Corrado Giulietti & Martin Guzi & Martin Kahanec & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2013. "Unemployment benefits and immigration: evidence from the EU," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 34(1), pages 24-38, March.
    3. Andrew Leigh, 2007. "How Closely Do Top Income Shares Track Other Measures of Inequality?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(524), pages 619-633, November.
    4. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti & Roberto Perotti & Massimo Rostagno, 2002. "Electoral Systems and Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(2), pages 609-657.
    5. Kathleen Bawn & Frances Rosenbluth, 2006. "Short versus Long Coalitions: Electoral Accountability and the Size of the Public Sector," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 50(2), pages 251-265, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giuranno, Michele G. & Nocco, Antonella, 2020. "Trade tariff, wage gap and public spending," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 167-179.
    2. Sanjeev Gupta & João Tovar Jalles, 2020. "Tax Revenue Reforms and Income Distribution in Developing Countries," Working Papers REM 2020/0137, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, REM, Universidade de Lisboa.
    3. Juin-Jen Chang & Jang-Ting Guo & Wei-Neng Wang, 2021. "On Government Spending and Income Inequality under Monopolistic Competition," Working Papers 202103, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality; redistribution; government size; instrumental variable; Gini index;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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