Equity: Volume 15

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Introduction

Pages ix-xii

For equity, societies may wish to eliminate certain forms or manifestations of inequality. Horizontal equity and vertical equity in the income tax are topics which have interested me for some years. Although any shortfall from each of these objectives can be measured in terms of unwanted inequalities, equity per se is a different concept from equality. Equity relates to fairness, justice and other societal norms which give expression to the best aspirations of our collective social conscience. For example, equal access to health care for those in equal need is an accepted norm for horizontal equity in the health field. Vertical equity in this context means treating appropriately differently those who have different needs. When offered the opportunity to be Guest Editor of this volume of Research on Economic Inequality, I decided to define the focus simply as “equity”, without placing any further restriction on topics. The papers which were ultimately included in this volume are the ones, from among those offered, which survived a rigorous refereeing process. Each has its own “take” on the concept of equity, and its link with equality. I hope that you, the reader, will gain from reading all of these contributions and pondering their significance.

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A fundamental ethical question is how a redistributive system should reward individual effort. Marginal productivity reward has been justified either as a way of ensuring efficiency or as a way of respecting people's self-ownership. Both these arguments have their limitations. We show that marginal productivity reward is implied by one intuitively appealing requirement on the reward structure, which we name non-negative reward. This result can be interpreted in one of two ways. It can be seen as a new justification of marginal productivity reward that avoids the limitations of the traditional arguments. Alternatively, it can be seen as a result showing that any redistributive system that makes transfers conditional on effort, sometimes will make the reward individuals get for their additional effort completely conditional on others effort. Finally, we also show that no genuine redistributive system satisfies both non-negative reward and the liberal requirement of no forced labour.

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For over 60 years, Lerner's (1944) probabilistic approach to the welfare evaluation of income distributions has aroused controversy. Lerner's famous theorem is that, under ignorance regarding who has which utility function, the optimal distribution of income is completely equal. However, Lerner's probabilistic approach can only be applied to compare distributions with equal means when the number of possible utility functions equals the number of individuals in the population. Lerner's most controversial assumption that each assignment of utility functions to individuals is equally likely. This paper generalizes Lerner's probabilistic approach to the welfare analysis of income distributions by weakening the restrictions of utilitarian welfare, equal means, equal numbers, and equal probabilities and a homogeneous population. We show there is a tradeoff between invariance (measurability and comparability) and the information about the assignment of utility functions to individuals required to evaluate expected social welfare.

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This paper discusses inequality orderings based explicitly on closing up of income gaps, demonstrating the links between these and other orderings, the classes of functions preserving the orderings and applications showing their usefulness in comparison of economic policies.

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There is a consensus in the general public that income taxes should be everywhere progressive. Starting from the basic properties normally required, we examine the possibilities of designing everywhere progressive income tax schedules. An axiomatic analysis investigates the (in)consistency of these requirements with further restrictions on the degree of progression. It turns out that everywhere progressive tax schedules have to be maximally progressive or almost proportional in some income range.

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It is possible to employ either income or expenditure as the base for personal taxation. A considerable literature has developed that investigates the relative efficiency of these bases. The answer is usually in favor of the expenditure tax since it does not distort the choice between consumption and saving. In contrast, the literature is almost silent on the relative equity of the two bases. We investigate the redistributive consequences of the choice in models with two sources of heterogeneity: skill in employment and lump-sum endowment. The Gini coefficient is used to measure the degree of equity achieved by the tax bases in static and dynamic settings. Income taxes and expenditure taxes that generate equal welfare or equal revenue are compared. In the static economy the income tax leads to lower inequality except when skill and endowment are negatively correlated. Inequality is always lower with the income tax in the dynamic economy. These results support the choice of income as the base for personal taxation if reduction in inequality is a priority of policy.

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Individual strategic weight plays an important role in the intra-household allocation of resources; however, empirical studies invariably find such weight difficult to define in a plausible and computable way, given the available data. This paper proposes a framework for the calculation of household members’ strategic weight that can be easily computed using a microsimulation model. The index proposed for each member as the share of resources the household would lose should he or she abandon it. The causes of strategic weight differentials are analysed in four EU countries with significantly different employment structure and tax-benefit systems (Finland, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom), using EUROMOD, an integrated EU-15 microsimulation model.

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We adopt a standard distributional impact methodology, based on Atkinson's cost of inequality approach, to estimate the degree of implicit redistribution created through public funding of health insurance in Canada. The first stage of the exercise is to determine the public health insurance benefits received by families of various age and composition and to add these to measured after-tax incomes. In our base case, which uses the Atkinson Mean Logarithmic Deviation as inequality index, we find that accounting for public health insurance benefits implies a reduction in inequality equivalent to 2.4% of per capita income. We then model the implications of moving to a hypothetical fully privatized system while proportionately refunding to individuals the tax revenues saved in doing so. This would give rise to a further 2.4% equivalent per capita income reduction resulting from increased inequality in the distribution of after-tax income. Thus, for this scenario, moving from public financing of health insurance in Canada to a fully privatized system implies an overall increase in inequality equivalent to a loss of 4.8% of per capita income. This corresponds to an increase of about 25% in existing inequality. Not surprisingly, the impact of publicly financed health insurance in reducing inequality is strongest for the elderly.

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This paper reports an analysis of the evolution of equity in the utilisation of health care in Spain over the period 1987–2001, a time span covering the development of the modern Spanish National Health System. Our measures of utilisation are the probabilities of visiting a doctor, using emergency services and being hospitalised. For these three measures, we obtain indices of horizontal inequity from microeconometric models of utilisation that exploit the individual information in the Spanish National Health Surveys of 1987 and 2001. We find that by 2001, the system had improved insofar as differences in income no longer lead to differences in utilisation given the same level of need. However, tenure of private health insurance leads to differences in utilisation given the same level of need, and its contribution to inequity has increased over time, both because insurance is more concentrated among the rich and because the elasticity of utilisation for the three services has also increased.

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Population aging in many countries has become a fundamental concern of public policy. One reason is fears that increasing numbers of elderly will place disproportionate burdens on their children in order to fund public pensions and health-related services. This analysis first discusses basic principles for assessing this question of intergenerational fairness. It then applies an empirically-based overlapping cohort dynamic microsimulation model for a quantitative analysis of the flows of taxes and cash and in-kind transfers for successive birth cohorts. The simulations cover both exogenous factors – specifically trends in life expectancy and the strength of the economy, and policy-related factors – specifically raising the age of entitlement to public pensions from age 65 to 70, and price versus relative wage indexing. The analysis concludes, among other points, that intergenerational differences are significantly smaller than intra-generational variations, and that the parents of the baby-boom generation are likely to benefit from the largest lifetime net transfers of any birth cohort from 1890 to 2010.

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Supposing that decisionmakers in any country and at any point in time tolerate a certain fixed level of perceived poverty, differences in poverty aversion are called for to explain observed international and intertemporal variations in poverty statistics. Under the Natural Rate of Subjective Poverty hypothesis advanced in this paper, variations in the degree of poverty aversion are estimable and can be explained by political and socioeconomic factors. The methodology is applied to US data from 1975 to 1998 and across nations using cross-section data from the mid-1990s. Factors such as the political affiliation of government officials, public expenditure, per capita income, and economic growth account for much of the variation in poverty aversion implied by our hypothesis. The relationship between inequality aversion and poverty aversion is also explored, with the aid of a parallel “natural rate” hypothesis for inequality (Lambert et al., 2003). Our findings provide a new framework in which to interpret observed correlations between poverty, inequality, and social welfare.

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Despite the general presumption in favor of trade liberalization, the question of how to implement it in a way to ensure equitable income distribution and sustainable poverty alleviation in developing countries is at the core of the current trade debate. We build a macroeconomic framework that integrates both market and non-market activities, while distinguishing male and female workers throughout, in order to evaluate impacts of tariffs elimination on men and women in South Africa. Our study reveals a strong gender bias against women with a decrease in their labor market participation, while men participate more in the market economy. This strong result is due to the fact that female workers are concentrated in contracting sectors that were initially among the protected sectors and that benefit little from the fall in input prices. In contrast, male workers are more concentrated in the expanding export-intensive sectors. Female labor market participation drops particularly for Black African women, as they are more concentrated in contracting sectors. As male labor market participation and real wages increase more than for their female counterparts, their income share increases within the household. Women continue to suffer nonetheless from a heavy time use burden given their increased domestic work with trade liberalization.

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DOI
10.1016/S1049-2585(2007)15
Publication date
Book series
Research on Economic Inequality
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-0-7623-1450-8
Book series ISSN
1049-2585