Income Inequality, Fiscal Decentralization and Transfer Dependency


Caroline-Antonia Goerl ; Mike Seiferling

Publication Date:

April 16, 2014

Electronic Access:

Free Download. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate


Within the context of reigniting post crisis macroeconomic growth, income inequality has emerged as a topic of significant interest for both academics and policymakers (Bastagli, Coady, and Gupta, 2012) This study builds on past literature on fiscal decentralization suggesting that redistribution is most effectively carried out at sub-central levels of government. Using the IMF’s multi-sector Government Finance Statistics Yearbook database, this paper tests the impact of decentralized redistribution on income inequality for a globally representative sample of countries since 1980. The findings suggest that the decentralization of government expenditure can help achieve a more equal distribution of income. However, several conditions need to be fulfilled: i) the government sector needs to be sufficiently large, ii) decentralization should be comprehensive, including redistributive government spending, and, iii) decentralization on the expenditure side should be accompanied by adequate decentralization on the revenue side, such that subnational governments rely primarily on their own revenue sources as opposed to intergovernmental transfers.


Working Paper No. 2014/064



Publication Date:

April 16, 2014



Stock No:




Please address any questions about this title to