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How do fiscal adjustments change the income distribution in emerging market economies?

João Tovar Jalles (Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 18 April 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to empirically examine the relationship between fiscal consolidations and changes in income distribution.

Design/methodology/approach

Looking at a sample of 27 emerging market economies between 1980 and 2014, the authors resort to both static panel techniques as well as dynamic impulse response function analysis using local projection methods to uncover the direct impact of adjustments on inequality.

Findings

The authors find that fiscal consolidations tend to lead to an increase in income inequality and reduce the redistributive role of fiscal policy. Spending-based consolidations are more detrimental to income distribution than tax based ones and fiscal retrenchment during bad times raises inequality. In times of fiscal expansion inequality seems to rise in the medium term and this effect is larger if the economy is booming.

Research limitations/implications

The distributional effects of consolidation, i.e. whether consolidation can confer benefits, must be balanced against the potential longer term benefits. It should be recognized that there is scope for improving the targeting and efficiency of public programs and that fiscal adjustments would not unavoidably run into such an efficiency vs equity trade-off.

Originality/value

The paper, applying a consistent methodology, documents the set of fiscal episodes emerging market economies experienced over time. The authors empirically examine both the static and dynamic links between fiscal consolidation and inequality. Since composition matters, the authors explore how spending and tax-based fiscal consolidations affect income distribution. The authors conduct several robustness checks including the use of alternative income distribution proxies and state-contingent estimations on the phase of the business cycle.

Keywords

Citation

Tovar Jalles, J. (2017), "How do fiscal adjustments change the income distribution in emerging market economies?", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 310-334. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJoEM-10-2015-0219

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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