Welfare states redistribute both between individuals (inter-individual redistribution) reducing annual, cross-sectional inequality and over the lifecycle of an individual (intra-individual redistribution) insuring individuals against income risks in the long-term. But studies measuring redistribution often focus on a one-year period and the second aspect is neglected. To quantify both inter- and intra-individual redistribution in Germany this study uses SOEP data from 1984 to 2009 to construct long-term incomes over a 20-year period. Results show that annual, cross-sectional inequality is higher than inequality in the long-run, but the effect of redistribution is also larger annually than in the long-term. Depending on age the distributional focus of the German welfare state differs. When persons are young, state intervention reduces income differences between individuals mainly through the progressive tax system. Getting older and reaching retirement age income-smoothing redistribution via social security pensions becomes central.
long-term income inequality income redistribution social security