Improving poverty reduction in Europe: what works best where?

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

February 15, 2019


This article examines how income poverty is affected by changes to the scale of tax-benefit policies and which are the most cost-effective policies in reducing poverty or limiting its increase in seven diverse EU countries. We do that by measuring the implications of increasing/reducing the scale of each policy instrument, using microsimulation methods while holding constant the policy design and national context. We consider commonly applied policy instruments with a direct effect on household income: child benefits, social assistance, income tax lower thresholds and a benchmark case of rescaling the whole tax-benefit system. We find that the assessment of the most cost-effective instrument may depend on the measure of poverty used and the direction and scale of the change. Nevertheless, our results indicate that the options that reduce poverty most cost-effectively in most countries are increasing child benefits and social assistance, while reducing the former is a particularly poverty-increasing way of making budgetary cuts.

Published in

Journal of European Social Policy

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 29 , p.29 -43




Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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