Publicly provided services and the distribution of households' economic resources
Faculty of Applied Economics
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
OECD economic studies / Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. - Paris, 1983 - 2007
, p. 1-45
University of Antwerp
Conventional income distribution statistics subtract taxes from household income but do not take into account the distributional effects of the services financed through these taxes. As many of the functions of government are available to the population free of charge or at a subsidised rate, this means that income distribution figures exaggerate the degree of inequality in the distribution of resources. This article examines the extent to which this is the case, and assesses whether statements about the relative inequality prevailing in different countries are reliable. Estimates of the impact of government services on the static distribution of household income, based on two different approaches, show that publicly-provided goods and services significantly narrow the dispersion of income inequality across countries with only small changes in the ranking of individual countries, and that the effects are larger when looking at the extremes of the distributions.