Research Paper OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1312
Estimating the distributional impact of the Greek crisis (2009-2014)
05 Jul 2016
Estimating the impact of the crisis on income distribution requires up-to-date information. Due to the complexity of income surveys such as EU-SILC, income data usually become available with considerable delay. In this context, micro-simulation models are an appropriate and widely used alternative to bridge the gap in official data, allowing for an early evaluation of the distributional impact of changes in tax-benefit policies and in the wider economy. This paper analyses the effects of the Greek crisis on inequality and poverty in 2009-2014 using the micro-simulation model EUROMOD. Specifically, the paper updates earlier OECD estimates of distributional effects of the crisis in 2009-2012, and provides new estimates for 2013-2014, a period for which survey data are not yet publicly available. The results indicate that inequality, as measured by most indicators, rose in 2010-2013 as the recession deepened and unemployment rose, and fell back in 2014 as the economy stabilised. Relative poverty seems to have increased in 2012, after remaining broadly unchanged in the previous two years; in 2013 it appears to have stabilised, while in 2014 it fell back to only slightly above its level in 2010 (13.8% vs.13.2% respectively). This pattern is more pronounced when poverty is measured against an “anchored” benchmark: the proportion of population whose income fell below a poverty line anchored in pre-crisis terms increased steadily and steeply, until 2014 when it finally stabilised at 27.4% (from 13.2% in 2010). Not all population groups were affected evenly by recent developments: the rise of poverty in 2010-2013 especially affected the unemployed, the self-employed, the young, the middle-aged, families living in Athens, families paying rent or mortgage rather than outright owning their dwelling; on the contrary, relative poverty actually fell among groups traditionally seen as ‘poor’, such as farmers and the elderly – although in the latter case the relative improvement in terms of income may have been offset by difficulties in access to health care. The paper also assesses first-round effects of austerity policies on the income distribution given changes in the wider economy, i.e. abstracting from second-round effects associated with the deflationary impact of austerity on output. In this sense, early austerity policies per se appear to have had a small positive distributional impact, partly offsetting the increases in inequality and poverty due to the recession. As fiscal consolidation intensified in 2012, tax and benefit policies appear to have exacerbated the adverse distributional effects of the recession, causing poverty and inequality to rise further. From 2013, austerity policies seem to have had a more equalizing effect, especially at the bottom of the distribution and in terms of its distance from the top.