CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

CEQ Working Paper No 4: Fiscal Incidence, Fiscal Mobility and the Poor

Fiscal Incidence, Fiscal Mobility and the Poor
Working Paper No. 4

A working document by:
Nora Lustig
Samuel Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Economics, Tulane University and Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development and Inter-American Dialogue
Sean Higgins
Doctoral student of PhD in Economics, Tulane University

Taxes and transfers can have significant impacts on poverty and inequality. All standard measures are by definition anonymous in the sense that we do not know the identity of winners and losers. That a given combination of taxes and transfers makes some of the poor poorer, however, may be important information to incorporate into a fiscal incidence analysis. The directional mobility literature provides a useful framework to identify which individuals are adversely/favorably impacted by a particular policy. This paper introduces a “fiscal mobility matrix” to identify winners and losers. We show that taxes and transfers can lower inequality and poverty (including the severity of poverty) but still make a subgroup of the poor worse off. We use Brazilian data to illustrate how indirect taxes make around 11 percent of the non-poor poor, 15 percent of the moderate poor extremely poor, and 4 percent of the extremely poor “ultra-poor” despite any cash transfers they receive, even when standard poverty and inequality indicators decline and overall taxes are progressive.

Access the working document here:
Updated January 2013
CEQ Working Paper No 4: Fiscal Incidence, Fiscal Mobility and the Poor