The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia

By Ian McAllister; Steve Dowrick et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Income Distribution and
Redistribution
Peter Saunders

The study of how income is distributed and redistributed has traditionally been accorded a relatively low priority among economists. Reviewing the topic for the Academy of the Social Sciences, Richardson (1979:11) noted that the literature up to that point was 'diverse and on the whole fragmented', focusing largely on the distribution of full-time male adult earnings. A similar sentiment was expressed by the Commonwealth Taxation Review Committee (1975), which made reference to the absence of reliable data on the distributions of income before and after tax on which to base analysis of the distributional impacts of the tax system (Commonwealth Taxation Review Committee 1975:4.32). Yet throughout this period, Australia was widely regarded, nationally and internationally, as among the most equal of nations in terms of economic outcomes (Sawyer 1976).

This lack of interest in income distribution among economists has not been restricted to Australia. In his 1996 presidential address to the Royal Economic Society, Atkinson (1997) quoted Hugh Dalton, who noted in 1920 that the distribution of income between persons was rarely discussed in economics textbooks, primarily because of the belief that it involved; 'plodding statistical investigations, which professors of economic theory were content to leave to lesser men' (quoted in Atkinson 1997:297).

Over the past three decades, this situation has undergone a remarkable turnaround. Improvements in data quality and accessibility have given researchers the opportunity to explore the implications of alternative assumptions and examine how income distributions differ.These developments have challenged Australia's egalitarian reputation, because the emergence of growing income disparities has drawn attention to the extent and causes of income inequality and what governments could, and should, do about it. While many have argued that increased inequality has been an unavoidable consequence of globalisation, others have argued that national factors lie behind the increased income disparities that many countries have experienced.Thus, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry has argued that 'economic globalisation may be impacting on national income distributions, but these are overwhelmingly determined by what are essentially nationally-driven developments' (Henry 2002:4).

Although the measurement of income distribution remains dominated by economists, understanding how patterns of inequality emerge and studying the economic and

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The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Contributors x
  • Preface and Acknowledgements xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • References 13
  • Part 1 - Economics 15
  • Chapter 1 - Privatisation 17
  • References 27
  • Chapter 2 - Competition Policy and Regulation 31
  • References 40
  • Chapter 3 - Economics and the Environment 45
  • References 57
  • Chapter 4 - Health Economics 60
  • References 70
  • Chapter 5 - Immigration 74
  • References 87
  • Chapter 6 - Labour Market and Industrial Relations 94
  • References 113
  • Chapter 7 - Income Distribution and Redistribution 118
  • References 134
  • Chapter 8 - Taxation 138
  • References 148
  • Chapter 9 - Innovation 153
  • References 165
  • Chapter 10 - International Trade and Industry Policies 168
  • References 180
  • Chapter 11 - The Macro Economy 186
  • Notes 199
  • References 200
  • Chapter 12 - Money and Banking 203
  • References 216
  • Part 2 - Political Science 221
  • Chapter 13 - Political Theory 223
  • References 231
  • Chapter 14 - Federalism and the Constitution 234
  • References 246
  • Chapter 15 - Legislative Institutions 249
  • References 260
  • Chapter 16 - Political Parties and Electoral Behaviour 266
  • References 283
  • Chapter 17 - Electoral Systems 287
  • References 302
  • Chapter 18 - Gender Politics 305
  • References 319
  • Chapter 19 - Interest Groups and Social Movements 323
  • References 339
  • Chapter 20 - Environmental Policy and Politics 345
  • References 355
  • Chapter 21 - International Relations 358
  • Notes 368
  • References 369
  • Chapter 22 - Political Economy 374
  • References 391
  • Chapter 23 - Public Policy and Public Administration 406
  • References 422
  • Part 3 - Sociology 431
  • Chapter 24 - Patterns of Social Inequality 433
  • References 457
  • Chapter 25 - Families and Households 462
  • References 477
  • Chapter 26 - Gender Perspectives 480
  • References 493
  • Chapter 27 - Work and Employment 499
  • Notes 511
  • References 512
  • Chapter 28 - Crime and Deviance 518
  • References 531
  • Chapter 29 - Health and Illness 536
  • References 552
  • Chapter 30 - Population 554
  • References 569
  • Chapter 31 - Race, Ethnicity and Immigration 573
  • Notes 585
  • References 586
  • Chapter 32 - Urban and Regional Sociology 590
  • Reference 598
  • Chapter 33 - Rural Sociology 604
  • Reference 619
  • Chapter 34 - Religion and Spirituality 626
  • Reference 632
  • Chapter 35 - Cultural Studies, Australian Studies and Cultural Sociology 638
  • References 651
  • Chapter 36 - Sociological Theory 654
  • References 664
  • Chapter 37 - Social Policy and Social Welfare 666
  • References 674
  • Author Index 678
  • Subject Index 696
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