Isabel Martinez

Isabel Martinez

Isabel Martinez

Postdoctoral Researcher
Bodanstrasse 8
9000 St. Gallen
Fields of research
  • Income inequality
  • Wealth inequality
  • Taxation

2012-2016: University of St. Gallen, PhD in Economics, DIA Programme

2015-2016: University of California, Berkeley, Visiting Student Researcher

2009-2011: University of Bern, MSc in Economics

2005-2009: University of Bern, B.A. in Economics, Minor: Political Science  

2007-2008: Free University Berlin, one-year Erasmus Exchange

Professional Career

since April 2020: Post-Doctoral Researcher, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zürich

since Jan. 2018: Member Swiss Competition Commission WEKO

2017-2020: Economist, Swiss Federation of Trade Unions SGB (part-time)

2017-2020: Post-Doctoral Researcher / Project Manager, SIAW-HSG, University of St. Gallen (part-time)

2016-2017: Luxembourg Institute for Socio-Economic Research LISER, Post-Doctoral Researcher

2012-2016: Research Assistant / PhD Candidate, SIAW-HSG, University of St. Gallen

2009-2011: Research Assistant, Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB-USS), Bern


The Influence of Taxation on Wealth and Income Inequality

SNSF project number 176458 


The rapid change of inequality in incomes and wealth in the world has led to a surge of scientific interest in the topic. Along with top income shares, top wealth shares have been increasing since the 1980s, especially in the U.S. (Kopczuk and Saez, 2004) but also in European countries. While there is a mature empirical literature on (top) income inequality, the knowledge on both the dynamics of (top) wealth inequality and the economic forces driving them, is still limited.Analyzing the case of Switzerland, we want first to understand how top wealth shares evolved on a regional level (Work Package 1). Second, we analyze wealth mobility and the joint distribution of income and wealth. To understand the differences in living standards, it is central to know whether high income earners also control a large part of private wealth (Work Package 2). Using historical data we are able to extend the analysis back to the 1940s and uncover changes over time. This descriptive part of the study is a contribution to the literature on wealth concentration and mobility at the top in itself, and it documents the large variation we observe today across cantons.

Work Package 3 then assesses, theoretically and empirically, the influence of taxes on wealth concentration, using cantonal variation. To put the evolution wealth accumulation into broader context, the last Work Package 4 then looks at the wealth-income ratio in Switzerland, following the recent strand in the literature on the distribution of income and wealth that has started to estimate aggregate wealth-to-income ratios in a consistent manner across countries and over time, including Piketty (2014) and Piketty and Zucman (2014).

Why do we analyze Switzerland? First of all, the Swiss case is of great interest because it is a major industrialized country with a large financial sector, which also plays a major role in the tax sheltering of large fortunes (Zucman, 2013). Tax competition within Switzerland and the absence of wars have kept taxes on income and wealth low and have not foreclosed possible wealth accumulation. In addition, both large amounts of foreign assets are deposited in Switzerland, and net foreign assets of Swiss residents are very large, due to ongoing current account surpluses. Second, Switzerland is an ideal laboratory to draw empirical inference. 26 cantons have different tax rates but otherwise comparable conditions, making it the ideal setting to study outcomes at the macro-level with panel-econometrics methods.The majority of earlier studies have to rely on survey data, since not many countries have a comprehensive wealth tax. Instead, our project makes use of tax data, which cover a large part of the population, which allows to give a much more comprehensive understanding of wealth inequality and mobility. Building on an established working experience with tax data and sharing our results with leading researchers in the field, we are confident to achieve the aims of our study.  

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