Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Sara Torregrosa-Hetland (a1)

This paper investigates the evolution of income inequality in Spain during its transition to democracy, suggesting a method for the correction of under-reporting of earnings and profits in the Household Budget Surveys’ data. The contribution is twofold: the methodological proposal, based on income-expenditure discrepancy and scaling-up to National Accounts, improves on previous work and can be useful for similar historical sources in other countries. Second, its application results in an alternative history of the distribution of income in this case, changing the levels and also the observed trend. Previous literature asserted a substantial equalisation, related to the democratisation process, while after the adjustment inequality in disposable income is shown to have been quite persistent.


Este artículo analiza la evolución de la desigualdad de rentas en España durante la transición a la democracia, proponiendo un método para corregir la infra-declaración de ingresos en las Encuestas de Presupuestos Familiares. La contribución es doble: la metodología, basada en la discrepancia entre rentas y gastos y en el ajuste a Contabilidad Nacional, puede ser de utilidad para fuentes históricas similares en otros países. En segundo lugar, su aplicación resulta en una interpretación alternativa en este caso, al cambiar los niveles de desigualdad y también la tendencia observada. Si la literatura anterior había tratado de una sustancial mejora en la distribución, vinculada a la democracia, tras el ajuste efectuado la desigualdad en la renta disponible se muestra bastante persistente.

Hide All

Received 18 December 2014. Accepted 23 April 2015. This paper is part of the PhD dissertation project «Tax system and redistribution: the Spanish fiscal transition (1960-1990)», under the supervision of Alfonso Herranz-Loncán and Alejandro Esteller-Moré, to whom the author was grateful. The author acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Education’s (FPU scholarship) and Research Project ECO2012-39169-C03-03. She also thanks the team from Carlos III University who worked on the Household Budget Surveys data, and comments from seminar participants in Santiago de Chile and Bogotá and two anonymous referees. Emmanuel Saez hosted her at UC Berkeley while culminating this research; she is also grateful for his insights. All errors are the author’s own.


Department of Economic History and Institutions. 690 Avda. Diagonal, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.

Hide All
F Alvaredo . (2011): «A Note on the Relationship Between Top Income Shares and the Gini Coefficient». Economics Letters 110 (3), pp. 274-277.

F. Alvaredo , and E Saez . (2009): «Income and Wealth Concentration in Spain from a Historical and Fiscal Perspective». Journal of the European Economic Association 7 (5), pp. 1140-1167.

A Atkinson . (2000): «The Changing Distribution of Income: Evidence and Explanations». German Economic Review 1, pp. 3-18.

O. P Attanasio . (1999): «Consumption», in J. B. Taylor, and M. Woodford (eds), Handbook of Macroeconomics. Volume 1 of Handbook of Macroeconomics, Chapter 11, Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 741-812.

A Bosch-Domenech . (1991): «Economies of Scale, Location, Age, and Sex Discrimination in Household Demand». European Economic Review 35 (8), pp. 1589-1595.

B. Buhmann , et al. (1988): «Equivalence Scales, Well-Being, Inequality, and Poverty: Sensitivity Estimates across Ten Countries Using the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Database». Review of Income and Wealth 34 (2), pp. 115-142.

A Cutanda . (2003): «An Empirical Investigation of the Effect of Borrowing Constraints on Spanish Consumption». Spanish Economic Review 5, pp. 63-84.

J. Y. Duclos , and M Mercader-Prats . (1999): «Household Needs and Poverty: With Application to Spain and the U.K». Review of Income and Wealth 45 (1), pp. 77-98.

E. Engel ; A. Galetovic , and C Raddatz . (1999): «“Taxes and Income Distribution in Chile: Some Unpleasant Redistributive Arithmetic». Journal of Development Economics 59 (1), pp. 155-192.

P. Engström , and B Holmlund . (2009): «Tax Evasion and Self-Employment in a High-Tax Country: Evidence from Sweden». Applied Economics 41 (19), pp. 2419-2430.

F. J. Goerlich , and M Mas . (2001): «Inequality in Spain 1973-91: Contribution to a Regional Database». Review of Income and Wealth 47 (3), pp. 361-378.

E. Hurst ; G. Li , and B Pugsley . (2014): «Are Household Surveys Like Tax Forms? Evidence from Income Underreporting of the Self Employed». The Review of Economics and Statistics 96 (1), pp. 19-33.

P. R Krugman . (2000): «Technology, Trade and Factor Prices». Journal of International Economics 50 (1), pp. 51-71.

R. I. Lerman , and S Yitzhaki . (1985): «Income Inequality Effects by Income Source: A New Approach and Applications to the United States». The Review of Economics and Statistics 67 (1), pp. 151-156.

P. Lyssiotou ; P. Pashardes , and T Stengos . (2004): «Estimates of the Black Economy Based on Consumer Demand Approaches». Economic Journal 114 (497), pp. 622-640.

D Martínez-López . (2012): «The Underreporting of Income by Self-Employed Workers in Spain». SERIEs 4 (4), pp. 353-371.

A. Meltzer , and S Richard . (1981): «A Rational Theory of the Size of Government». Journal of Political Economy 89 (5), pp. 914-927.

J. Pijoan-Mas , and V Sánchez-Marcos . (2010): «Spain is Different: Falling Trends of Inequality». Review of Economic Dynamics 13, pp. 154-178.

T Piketty . (2003): «Income Inequality in France, 1901-1998». Journal of Political Economy 111 (5), pp. 1004-1042.

C. A. Pissarides , and G Weber . (1989): «An Expenditure-Based Estimate of Britain’s Black Economy». Journal of Public Economics 39 (1), pp. 17-32.

L Prados De La Escosura . (2008): «Inequality, Poverty and the Kuznets Curve in Spain, 1850-2000». European Review of Economic History 12 (3), pp. 287-324.

M Ravallion . (2003): «The Debate on Globalization, Poverty and Inequality: Why Measurement Matters». International Affairs 79 (4), pp. 739-754.

L Tedds . (2010): «Estimating the Income Reporting Function for the Self-Employed». Empirical Economics 38 (3), pp. 669-687.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Revista de Historia Economica - Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History
  • ISSN: 0212-6109
  • EISSN: 2041-3335
  • URL: /core/journals/revista-de-historia-economica-journal-of-iberian-and-latin-american-economic-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 28 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 278 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.