Public Choice

, Volume 95, Issue 1–2, pp 177–200 | Cite as

The political economy of targeting

  • Philippe De Donder
  • Jean Hindriks


One of the most widely used method of targeting is to reduce welfare benefits as income rises. Although the need for such targeting is clear enough, it also entails two important difficulties. Firstly, the prospect for the recipients of losing part of their benefits if they were to earn more can be a deterrent to work harder. Secondly, by reducing the number of recipients, targeting reduces the political support for taxation and redistribution. The purpose of this paper is to study the voting equilibrium of the degree of targeting and the level of taxation in an economy where labour supply is variable. The analysis reveals that targeting may be fatal for redistribution even though it rejects strictly less than the richest half of the population, and that it is not possible for a coalition of the extremes to form and reject the middle income group from the welfare system. Moreover, because targeting affects labour supply, we find that Pareto improvements are possible when targeting is either “too low” or “too high”. We also find that voting simultaneously over taxation and targeting is favourable to the poor in the sense that they can converge to their most-preferred policy by successively forming a majority coalition with the rich to increase targeting and with the middle to increase taxation.


Labour Supply Median Voter Condorcet Winner Vote Game Political Equilibrium 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe De Donder
    • 1
  • Jean Hindriks
    • 1
  1. 1.GREBEFacultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la PaixNamurBelgium

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