The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
The paper proposes a new welfare-based measure to evaluate the distributive effects of public programs. The proposed measure differs from traditional approaches in two important ways: first, it is based on life-cycle considerations, since most public expenditure programs have an intertemporal objective (such as education, housing, or social security); second, it takes into account market imperfections (such as in capital, credit, or annuity markets), which themselves give rise to many governmental interventions. The measure and its numerical illustrations suggest that, in general, the welfare effects from public programs whose aim is to eliminate market constraints predominate those that can be achieved through interpersonal income distribution.