Distributional analysis can be a useful tool to gain important insights into how policy changes affect discrete populations, along dimensions like age, gender or income.
Distributional analysis is an important part of a number of PBO costings and budget analyses. Examples can be found on the PBO’s publicly released costings or budget analyses outside the caretaker period page here. For example, the budget analysis Loss of public revenue and a distributional analysis of the tax cuts packages shows a breakdown of the revenue cost by taxable income quintiles. Similarly, the budget analyses Personal Income Tax Plan (Part 1) and Personal Income Tax Plan (Part 2) also present the financial implications of personal income tax cuts by gender. In addition, PBO research reports highlight budget-related issues and trends to improve the understanding of budget and fiscal policy matters, and often consider distributional impacts. For example, the 2019-20 Medium-term fiscal projections, Report no. 03/2019 included distributional analysis of the impact of the personal income tax changes in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 budgets, in addition to an analysis of bracket creep on taxable income quintiles over the period from 2017-18 to 2028-29.
The PBO does not produce distributional analysis for every request. Rather, parliamentarians must request distributional analysis of a policy proposal or a budget measure or program by specifying such supplementary analysis in the request template here. The PBO has limited resources available and gives priority to the analysis identified as important by the parliamentarian making a request. Further information about how to specify distributional analysis details can be found in the costing and budget analysis request templates and Guidance note 01/2021 here.
It should be noted that distributional analysis is not always possible, or meaningful, for all costings or budget analyses. The main limiting factors to the PBO undertaking distributional analysis relate to data availability, data quality and the predictive power of historical data (see Guidance note 01/2021 for further details here).
Historical data analysis is one area where the PBO can provide insights into distributional issues, provided the data exists and that we can access it. For example, transfer payments such as JobSeeker and the Age Pension, subsidies such as Medicare or Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme rebates, and revenue sources such as Personal Income Tax are good examples of areas where data to support distributional analyses are available to us. In other cases, particularly where payments are made to service providers rather than to individuals, the necessary administrative data may not be readily available.
In the election commitments report (see FAQ 8), parties and independents may request the inclusion of distributional analysis of individual election commitments. Where distributional analysis has been previously requested from the PBO as part of a costing request outside the caretaker period, parties and independents may choose to retain this information in the updated published costing of their commitment in the election commitments report.
We encourage parliamentarians and their staff to discuss the intended distributional analysis with the PBO prior to it being formally requested.