Andrés Irarrázaval (FEN-Universidad de Chile)

Seminario "The Fiscal Origins of Comparative Inequality levels: An Empirical and Historical Investigation"

Abstract: The literature studying the determinants of inequality and development in the Americas and across former colonies has largely overemphasized colonial legacies and an allegedly “institutionalized” unequal distribution of assets and opportunities to explain record-high inequality levels in Latin America, India, or Africa. This research exploits novel evidence on current and historical inequality dynamics, as well as an instrumental variable (IV) strategy (founded on historical settler mortality à la Acemoglu et al.), to document the fundamental role of income redistribution through taxes and transfers in accounting for differences in inequality across regions and historical periods. The findings challenge the thesis of Engerman and Sokoloff (ES; 1994) and Acemoglu et al. (AJR; 2001,2002), showing that inequality differences are not rooted in the colonial period nor are current inequality levels explained by supposedly persistent “extractive” economic institutions maintaining an unequal playing field. De facto, Latin America, Africa and India have had, in most cases, lower inequality levels than Western countries (i.e. Western Europe and its Offshoots) until the early 20th century. Before this period, no different than in colonized nations, Western countries had regressive fiscal systems that benefited richer households. The IV strategy, and the evidence on inequality dynamics, both indicate that contemporary inequality differences are a product of the 20th century. The emergence of redistributive policies due to democratization, which has taken place in the past century, led to an exceptional inequality reduction in Western countries. Despite that Latin America and India have converged towards “inclusive” economic institutions during a reformist 20th century, where access to opportunities massified, high inequality has persisted through a regressive fiscal equilibrium that is still largely in place due to a limited democratization process. In these places, low checks and balances on the executive and limited de facto political voice undermined the formation of the credible commitments necessary to raise substantial progressive taxation (notably direct taxes), and the political participation required to mobilize such resources towards redistribution. It seems that there is “no redistribution without representation”.


Formato híbrido:

Ingresa al seminario formato online aquí 

Si deseas asistir de manera presencial inscríbete aquí


Datos del Seminario

Fecha de inicio:
19 de Noviembre, 2021 | 12:00 hrs.

Fecha de término
19 de Noviembre, 2021 | 13:00 hrs.