Authors: Janet C. Gornick and Timothy M. Smeeding

Publication: Annual Review of Sociology. vol. 44. pp. 441-468

Date: July 2018


We review research on institutions of redistribution operating in high-income countries. Focusing on the nonelderly, we invoke the concept of the household income package, which includes income from labor, from related households, and from the state. Accordingly, we assess three institutional arenas: predistribution (rules and regulations that govern paid work), private redistribution (interhousehold transfers), and conventional public redistribution (operating via cash transfers and direct taxes). In each arena, we assess underlying policy logics, identify current policy controversies, summarize contemporary cross-national policy variation, and synthesize existing findings on policy effects. Our assessment of redistributional effects focuses on three core socioeconomic outcomes: low pay, child poverty, and income inequality. We close by assessing how the three institutional arenas perform collectively and by calling for further work on how these institutions change over time and how they affect subgroups differentially.

Link: Redistributional Policy in Rich Countries: Institutions and Impacts in Nonelderly Households