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Unequal wages for equal utilities

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  • Helmuth Cremer

    ()

  • Pierre Pestieau
  • Maria Racionero

Abstract

When educational policy is supplemented by a redistributive income tax, and when individualsdiffer in their ability to benefit from education, the optimal policy is typically rather regressive.Resources are concentrated on the most able individuals in order to get a "cake" as big aspossible to share among individuals through income taxation. In this paper we put forwardanother reason to push for regressive education. It is not linked to heterogeneity in innate ability to benefit from education but to pervasive non-convexities that arise in the optimal income tax problem when individual productivities are endogenous. For simplicity we assume a lineareducation technology and a given total education budget. To give the equal wage outcome thebest chance to emerge, we also assume that individuals have identical learning abilities.Nevertheless, it turns out that in the first-best wage inequality is always preferable to wageequality. Even more surprisingly, this conclusion remains valid in the second-best (unless adhoc restriction on the feasible degree of a wage differentiation are imposed). This is in spite ofthe fact that wage equalization would eliminate any need for distortionary income taxation.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal International Tax and Public Finance.

Volume (Year): 18 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 383-398

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Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:18:y:2011:i:4:p:383-398

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=102915

Related research

Keywords: Education policy; Optimal income taxation; Equal opportunity; H20; I20; D63;

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References

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  1. James M. Poterba, 1994. "Government Intervention in the Markets for Education and Health Care: How and Why?," NBER Working Papers 4916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1981. "Self-Selection and Pareto Efficient Taxation," NBER Working Papers 0632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Becker, Gary S, 1985. "Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages S33-58, January.
  4. Bovenberg, A Lans & Jacobs, Bas, 2001. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," CEPR Discussion Papers 3099, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Wildasin, David E., 1986. "Spatial variation of the marginal utility of income and unequal treatment of equals," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 125-129, January.
  6. Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B, 1992. "Public versus Private Investment in Human Capital Endogenous Growth and Income Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 818-34, August.
  7. Alison L. Booth & Melvyn B. Coles, 2008. "Tax Policy and Returns to Education," CEPR Discussion Papers 591, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  8. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1971. "A Utilitarian Approach to the Concept of Equality in Public Expenditure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 85(3), pages 409-15, August.
  9. Craig Brett & John Weymark, 2007. "The Impact of Changing Skill Levels on Optimal Nonlinear Income Taxes," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0708, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  10. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  11. Booth, Alison L. & Coles, Melvyn, 2007. "A microfoundation for increasing returns in human capital accumulation and the under-participation trap," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1661-1681, October.
  12. repec:dgr:uvatin:2005036 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Ulph, David, 1977. "On the optimal distribution of income and educational expenditure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 341-356, December.
  14. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2003. "Pareto Efficient Income Taxation with Stochastic Abilities," NBER Working Papers 10119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Bruno, Michael, 1976. "Equality, complementarity and the incidence of public expenditures," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 395-407, November.
  16. Darío Maldonado, 2008. "Education policies and optimal taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 131-143, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Roeder, Kerstin, 2012. "United but (un)equal: human capital, probability of divorce and the marriage contract," IDEI Working Papers 755, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  2. Helmuth Cremer & Philippe De Donder & Pierre Pestieau, 2010. "Education and Social Mobility," CESifo Working Paper Series 2951, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Efthymios Athanasiou, 2012. "Endogenous productivity and equality of opportunity," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 59-89, June.
  4. Leung, Tin Cheuk & Yazici, Hakki, 2011. "On the Optimal Skill Distribution in a Mirrleesian Economy," MPRA Paper 32596, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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