A Distributional Analysis of Fiscal Policies in the United States, 2000-2012

November 05, 2013

This study provides an in-depth discussion of the distribution of U.S. tax and spending policies across various subgroups of the population, mainly income groups, from 2000-2012. The study finds that in calendar year 2012, governments at all levels in the United States redistributed between $1.2 trillion and $2 trillion from the top 40 percent of the income spectrum to the bottom 60 percent, with the actual estimate depending on the assumption made regarding the distribution of government spending. Virtually all of this redistribution comes from the top 20 percent of the income distribution as the fourth quintile (60th to 80th percentiles) is only slightly negative. Approximately half of the redistribution from the top quintile comes from the top 1 percent, and approximately half of the redistribution to the bottom three quintiles goes to the bottom quintile. This study also provides estimates of redistribution along other dimensions such as age groups and marital status, and performs sensitivity analysis of methodological assumptions pertaining budget deficits and government spending.

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