Pestel, Nico (2013). Inequality in Germany: The Role of Household Context and the Concept of Economic Resources. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Economic inequality has increased considerably in many Western countries and has recently received increasing attention. The gap between rich and poor is now one of the main issues on the policy agendas and is potentially harmful for public welfare when it exceeds a certain threshold. That is why many policy makers are concerned with increasing levels of inequality. Economists should, therefore, provide an objective basis for decision making with regard to redistributive policies. This dissertation contributes to the literature on economic inequality with a special focus on Germany. Conducting analysis of inequality requires a decision on the exact research subject. This is concerned with the underlying concept of economic resources as well as the extent to which the household context is involved. The studies presented in this thesis differ with respect to both dimensions. The main results are briefly summarized here. Chapter 2 addresses the literature on the dispersion of individual earnings and deals with a very specific case of a wage gap by testing for an earnings premium for German members of parliament (MPs) in 2006. The analysis is based on a unique dataset of German MPs and representative German microdata. After controlling for observable characteristics as well as accounting for election probabilities and campaigning costs, we find a positive earnings premium for MPs which is statistically and economically significant. The results are consistent with the citizen candidate model when comparing politicians to citizens occupying executive positions. However, it shrinks to zero when restricting the control group to top level executives. Hence, answering the question whether the pay of MPs is appropriate is not straightforward and, in turn, depends on the appropriateness of the underlying control group. Chapter 3 extends the analysis of earnings inequality beyond the individual level and considers the household context and studies the role of marital sorting on inequality of couple earnings while taking into account labor supply behavior of spouses. I measure the effect of non-random sorting of spouses on inequality across couple households in West Germany from 1986 to 2010 by matching couples randomly to each other and predicting counterfactual labor supply choices. This allows me to quantify the pure effect of sorting in earnings potential rather than observed earnings. Using German microdata as well as a behavioral microsimulation model, I find that the impact of observed sorting on earnings inequality among couples turned from slightly equalizing to slightly disequalizing in recent years, but is generally rather neutral with regard to inequality. However, after adjusting for labor supply choices, I find that sorting in productivity has a much stronger impact on earnings inequality. This is mainly due to positive correlation in earnings potential and increases in female employment that are more concentrated in the upper part of the distribution. From a policy maker's perspective, this result implies a trade-off between policy measures promoting female labor force participation on the one hand and redistributive policies on the other hand. Chapter 4 quantifies the effect of changes in household composition, especially decreasing household size, on the distribution of total household income and pays special attention to the role of the tax and transfer system in Germany. Changes in household formation are associated with income inequality, since economies of scales in household consumption are more and more lost. The case of Germany is of special interest in this respect since the demographic development is, among other things, characterized by a sharp fall in average household size. Using German microdata, we find that the growth of the income gap between 1991 and 2007 is indeed strongly related to changes in household composition. The result for income inequality before taxes and transfers is much larger than the result for inequality indisposable incomes. This means, that the tax-benefit system largely compensates for inequality due to changes in household composition. Hence, the welfare state implicitly provides incentives affecting individual and household choices with respectto living arrangements. Finally, chapter 5 extends the analysis to the stock dimension of economic resources and looks at the joint distribution of household income and wealth at the top and introduces a family of multidimensional measures of affluence. The analysis is concerned with the role of both income and wealth for the top of the distribution. The proposed multidimensional affluence measures allow for the analysis of the extent, intensity and breadth of affluence within a common framework. We illustrate this by analyzing the role of income and wealth as dimensions of multidimensional well-being in Germany and the US in 2007, as well as for the US over the period 1989-2007. Using comparable microdata, we find that, in general, both dimensions are equally important for multidimensional a uence. However, we find distinct country differences with the country ranking depending on the measure. While in Germany wealth predominantly contributes to the intensity of affluence, income is more important in the US.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Pestel, Nicomail@nico-pestel.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-49925
Date: 17 January 2013
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Ehemalige Fakultäten, Institute, Seminare > Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences > no entry
Subjects: Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
inequality, Germany, household context, economic resourcesEnglish
Date of oral exam: 17 January 2013
NameAcademic Title
Fuest, ClemensProf. Dr.
Bierbrauer, FelixProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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