Incomes, Incentives and the Growth of Means-Testing in Hungary

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to examine the reform of family benefits and the growth of means-testing in Hungary. From 1996, many family benefits were means-tested for the first time. A new microsimulation model for Hungary, running on recent survey microdata, is used to simulate the impact of the 1996 reforms on government expenditures, the distribution of incomes, the targeting of benefits and effective marginal tax rates. These reforms are found to be largely benign and even progressive, but they also appear to be paving the way for the further extension of means-testing. The model is used to investigate such an extension by simulating the impact of a UK-style system of means-tested family benefits in Hungary. This system achieves some expenditure savings and better targeting of benefits, but also greatly increases effective marginal tax rates on low-income households with children. The paper argues that resulting poverty traps may increase child poverty in Hungary in the longer term and cautions against the overextension of means-testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-99
Number of pages23
JournalFISCAL STUDIES
Volume20
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes

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