Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Development economics, Inequality, Fiscal incidence analysis
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated January 31, 2023
Nora Lustig is Samuel Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Economics and Director of the Commitment to Equity Institute at Tulane University. She is also a Nonresident Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Inter-American Dialogue. Her current research is centered on assessing the impact of taxation and social spending on inequality and poverty in low and middle income countries, and on the determinants of income distribution in Latin America. Prof. Lustig has published more than seventy articles and fifteen edited volumes and books. She was president of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) and co-director of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2000/1, Attacking Poverty. She is the editor of the Journal of Economic Inequality Forum and has served on the Atkinson Commission on Global Poverty. She received her doctorate in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 11
Publication(World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2015-02) Inchauste, Gabriela ; Lustig, Nora ; Maboshe, Mashekwa ; Purfield, Catriona ; Woolard, IngridThis paper uses the 2010/11 Income and Expenditure Survey for South Africa to analyze the progressivity of the main tax and social spending programs and quantify their impact on poverty and inequality. The paper also assesses the redistributive effectiveness of fiscal interventions given the resources used. Because it applies the Commitment to Equity methodology, the results for South Africa can be compared with other middle-income countries for which the framework has also been applied. The main results are twofold. First, the burden of taxes -- namely the personal income tax, the value added tax, excises on alcohol and tobacco, and the fuel levy -- falls on the richest in South Africa and social spending results in sizable increases in the incomes of the poor. In other words, for the components examined, the tax and social spending system is overall progressive. Second, for these elements, fiscal policy in South Africa achieves appreciable reductions in income inequality and poverty. Moreover, these reductions are the largest achieved in the emerging market countries that have so far been included in the Commitment to Equity project. Although fiscal policy is equalizing and poverty-reducing, the levels of inequality and poverty that remain still rank among the highest in middle-income countries. Looking ahead, as South Africa grapples with slow economic growth, a high fiscal deficit, and a rising debt burden, addressing the twin challenges of high inequality and poverty will require not only much improved quality of public services, but also higher and more inclusive economic growth.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-01) Campos-Vazquez, Raymundo M. ; Lopez-Calva, Luis F. ; Lustig, NoraWage inequality has declined in Mexico since 2000. Using data from Mexican labor surveys for the period between 2000 and 2014, this paper investigates whether the decline was driven by wages declining more sharply for younger or older workers. The analysis finds that the wages of older workers declined and the decline was more pronounced in the older cohort. This would seem to support the hypothesis that older workers' skills have become obsolete.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-08) Rodriguez Castelan, Carlos ; Lopez-Calva, Luis F. ; Lustig, Nora ; Valderrama, DanielSince the early 2000s, after a long period of wide and persistent gaps, Latin America has experienced a steady decline in income inequality. This paper presents evidence of a trend reversal in labor income inequality, which is considered the main factor behind such a decline in income inequality across the region. The analysis shows that, while labor income inequality increased during the 1990s, with heterogeneous experiences across countries, it fell in a synchronized way across countries beginning in the early 2000s. This systematic decline was supported by an expansion in real hourly earnings among the bottom of the wage distribution and, to a lesser extent, the middle part of the earnings distribution, thus reducing upper and lower tail inequality. This trend reversal is explained by a lower dispersion of earnings among workers with observable different attributes and by a much less extensive dispersion of residual labor inequality. Regarding the earnings differentials among workers with observable different attributes, the analysis concludes that the decline in labor inequality in Latin America has been closely associated with a reduction in the college/primary education premium and in the urban-rural earnings gap, coupled with a steady drop in the high school/primary education premium, which accelerated markedly since the 2000s, as well as a reduction in the experience premium across all age groups.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-05-26) Lustig, NoraAt the UN General Assembly of September 2015, countries around the world committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By 2030, counties committed to attain poverty and hunger eradication, healthy lives, quality education, gender equality and sustainable development. Countries also committed to promoting full-employment growth, decent work, peaceful societies and accountable institutions as well as to reducing inequality and strengthening global partnerships for sustainable development. One key factor to achieving the SDGs will be the availability of fiscal resources to deliver the floors in social protection, social services and infrastructure embedded in the SDGs. A significant portion of these resources is expected to come from domestic sources in developing countries themselves, complemented by transfers from the countries that are better off. The report states that for all countries, the mobilization and effective use of domestic resources is at the crux of our common pursuit of sustainable development and achieving the SDGs Moreover, countries will be expected to set spending targets to deliver social protection and essential public services for all and set nationally defined domestic revenue targets.In particular, that raising additional revenues domestically for infrastructure, protecting the environment or social services may leave a significant portion of the poor with less cash to buy food and other essential goods. It is not uncommon that the net effect of all governments taxing and spending is to leave the poor worse off in terms of actual consumption of private goods and services. Achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals will depend in part on the ability of governments to improve their tax collection and enforcement systems. However, demand for investments into infrastructure and public services must be balanced against the competing need to protect low-income households that may otherwise be made worse off from misaligned tax and transfer policies.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-11) Ferreira, Francisco H. G. ; Lustig, Nora ; Teles, DanielIn response to a growing interest in comparing inequality levels and trends across countries, several cross-national inequality databases are now available. These databases differ considerably in purpose, coverage, data sources, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and quality of documentation. A special issue of the Journal of Economic Inequality, which this paper introduces, is devoted to an assessment of the merits and shortcomings of eight such databases. Five of these sets are microdata-based: CEPALSTAT, Income Distribution Database, Luxembourg Income Study, PovcalNet, and Socio-Economic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean. Two are based on secondary sources: All the Ginis and the World Income Inequality Database; and one is generated entirely through multiple-imputation methods: the Standardized World Income Inequality Database. Although there is much agreement across these databases, there is also a nontrivial share of country/year cells for which substantial discrepancies exist. In some cases, different databases would lead users to radically different conclusions about inequality dynamics in certain countries and periods. The methodological differences that lead to these discrepancies often appear to be driven by a fundamental trade-off between a wish for broader coverage on the one hand, and for greater comparability on the other hand. These differences across databases place considerable responsibility on both producers and users: on the former, to better document and explain their assumptions and procedures, and on the latter, to understand the data they are using, rather than merely taking them as true because available.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017-08-24) Inchauste, Gabriela ; Lustig, Nora ; Inchauste, Gabriela ; Lustig, NoraThe World Bank has partnered with the Commitment to Equity Institute at Tulane University to implement their diagnostic tool—the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Assessment—designed to assess how taxation and public expenditures affect income inequality, poverty, and different economic groups. The approach relies on comprehensive fiscal incidence analysis, which measures the contribution of each individual intervention to poverty and inequality reduction as well as the combined impact of taxes and social spending. The CEQ Assessment provide an evidence base upon which alternative reform options can be analyzed. The use of a common methodology makes the results comparable across countries. This volume presents eight country studies that examine the distributional effects of individual programs and policy measures—and the net effect of each country’s mix of policies and programs. These case studies were produced in the context of Bank policy dialogue and have since been used to propose alternative reform options.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C, 2013-07) Lustig, Nora ; Lopez-Calva, Luis F. ; Ortiz-Juarez, EduardoInequality in Latin America unambiguously declined in the 2000s. The Gini coefficient fell in 16 of the 17 countries where there are comparable data, and the change was statistically significant for all of them. Existing studies point to two main explanations for the decline in inequality: a reduction in hourly labor income inequality, and more robust and progressive government transfers. Available evidence suggests that it is the skill premium -- or, more precisely, the returns to primary, secondary, and tertiary education vs. no schooling or incomplete primary schooling -- that drives the decline in hourly labor income inequality. The causes behind the decline in returns to schooling, however, have not been unambiguously established. Some studies find that returns fell because of an increase in the supply of workers with more educational attainment; others, because of a shift in demand away from skilled labor.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-03) Bucheli, Marisa ; Lustig, Nora ; Rossi, Maximo ; Amábile, FlorenciaHow much redistribution does Uruguay accomplish through social spending and taxes? How progressive are revenue collection and social spending? A standard fiscal incidence analysis shows that Uruguay achieves a nontrivial reduction in inequality and poverty when all taxes and transfers are combined. In comparison with five other countries in Latin America, it ranks first (poverty reduction) and second (inequality reduction), and first in terms of poverty reduction effectiveness and third in terms of overall (including transfers in-kind) inequality reduction effectiveness. Direct taxes are progressive and indirect taxes are regressive. Social spending on direct transfers, contributory pensions, education and health is quite progressive in absolute terms except for tertiary education, which is almost neutral in relative terms.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank and Oxford University Press, 2005) Bourguignon, Francois ; Ferreira, Francisco H.G. ; Lustig, Nora ; Bourguignon, François ; Ferreira, Francisco H.G. ; Lustig, NoraThis volume presents a collection of studies on the dynamics of income inequality based on micro data. Using a simple but powerful empirical methodology, the authors analyze the roles of prices, occupational choice, and educational choice in accounting for household income and its contribution to inequality. It casts doubt on the grand theories of growth and income inequality that have dominated discussions in development economics. It paves the way for a full-blown, micro-based general equilibrium theory of income determination and income inequality.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-10) Lustig, Nora ; Lopez-Calva, Luis F. ; Ortiz-Juarez, EduardoBetween 2000 and 2010, the Gini coefficient declined in 13 of 17 Latin American countries. The decline was statistically significant and robust to changes in the time interval, inequality measures, and data sources. In-depth country studies for Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico suggest two main phenomena underlie this trend: a fall in the premium to skilled labor and more progressive government transfers. The fall in the premium to skills resulted from a combination of supply, demand, and institutional factors. Their relative importance depends on the country.