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DP7489 | Spain is Different: Falling Trends of Inequality

Publication Date

11/10/2009

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Abstract

In this article we characterize the evolution of inequality in hourly wages, hours of work, labor earnings, household disposable income and household consumption for Spain between 1985 and 2000. We look at both the Encuesta Continua de Presupuestos Familiares and the European Household Community Panel. Our analysis shows that inequality in individual net labor earnings and household net disposable income has decreased substantially. The decreases in the tertiary education premium and in the unemployment rate have been key ingredients to understand this falling trend. However, the inequality reduction has not been monotonic over the period: while it fell in years of economic expansion, there was an inequality surge in the recession of the early nineties. Public transfers have played a crucial role in smoothing out the inequality arising in the labor market, but instead the Spanish family does not seem to have been an important insurance mechanism. Regarding household consumption, inequality has fallen much less than inequality in household net disposable income, with the decrease mostly concentrated in the second half of the eighties. This suggests that the reduction in income inequality has affected the sources of permanent differences between households only during the second half of the eighties. Our estimates of the earnings process for the period are consistent with this view.