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Do more equal slices shrink the cake? An empirical investigation of tax-transfer reform proposals in Italy

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  • Rolf Aaberge

    ()

  • Ugo Colombino

    ()

  • Steinar Strøm

    ()

Abstract

A crucial issue in efficiency-equality evaluations of tax reforms resides in the possibility that the level as well as the distribution of welfare may change, where the household-specific measures of welfare capture the value of income as well as the value of leisure. A better-designed redistribution and income support system may not only foster equality but also improve the configuration of incentives and by this route contribute in its turn to efficiency. This paper presents an empirical analysis of the welfare effects for married couples of replacing the Italian tax system by three alternative hypothetical reforms: a flat tax, a negative income tax, and a work fare scheme. We employ a microeconometric model of household labour supply that represents partners’ simultaneous choices, allows for constraints in the choice of hours of work, and is sufficiently flexible to capture a large variety of supply responses. These features appear to be crucial in the evaluation of reform effects. The results suggest that there is scope for improving upon the current system under both the efficiency and the equality criterion. The benefits from the reforms, however, come from unexpected directions since the largest labour supply contribution come from poor and middle class households whereas rich households appear to be much less responsive to changes in the tax rates. The simulation results reveal that a crucial role in shaping the results is played by the relatively higher behavioural responsiveness of married women living in low and average income households. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2004

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Population Economics.

Volume (Year): 17 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 767-785

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Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:17:y:2004:i:4:p:767-785

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Keywords: D19; D69; J22; Tax reforms; labour supply; welfare gains and losses; efficiency-equality trade-off; social welfare;

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References

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  1. Aaberge, Rolf & Dagsvik, John K & Strom, Steinar, 1995. " Labor Supply Responses and Welfare Effects of Tax Reforms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 635-59, December.
  2. Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A., 1980. "A single-parameter generalization of the Gini indices of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 67-86, February.
  3. Dickens, William T & Lundberg, Shelly J, 1993. "Hours Restrictions and Labor Supply," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(1), pages 169-92, February.
  4. Dagsvik, John K, 1994. "Discrete and Continuous Choice, Max-Stable Processes, and Independence from Irrelevant Attributes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1179-1205, September.
  5. Rolf Aaberge, 2000. "Characterizations of Lorenz curves and income distributions," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 639-653.
  6. Bourguignon, F. & O'Donoghue, C. & Sastre-Descals, J. & Spadaro, A. & Utili, F., 1997. "Eur 3: A Prototype European Tax-Benefit Model," DELTA Working Papers 97-30, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  7. Aaberge, Rolf & Colombino, Ugo & Strom, Steinar, 1999. "Labour Supply in Italy: An Empirical Analysis of Joint Household Decisions, with Taxes and Quantity Constraints," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(4), pages 403-22, July-Aug..
  8. King, Mervyn A., 1983. "Welfare analysis of tax reforms using household data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 183-214, July.
  9. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 7628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. DONALDSON, David & WEYMARK, John A., . "Ethically flexible Gini indices for income distributions in the continuum," CORE Discussion Papers RP -520, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  11. Arthur van Soest, 1995. "Structural Models of Family Labor Supply: A Discrete Choice Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 63-88.
  12. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino & Steinar Strøm & Tom Wennemo, 2005. "Joint Labour Supply of Married Couples: Efficiency and Distribution Effects of Tax and Labour Market Reforms," Labor and Demography 0501004, EconWPA.
  13. Weymark, John A., 1981. "Generalized gini inequality indices," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 409-430, August.
  14. Fortin, B. & Truchon, M., 1990. "On Reforming the Welfare System: Workfare Meets the Negative Income Tax," Cahiers de recherche 9016, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  15. Aaberge, Rolf, 2001. "Axiomatic Characterization of the Gini Coefficient and Lorenz Curve Orderings," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 101(1), pages 115-132, November.
  16. Yaari, Menahem E., 1988. "A controversial proposal concerning inequality measurement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 381-397, April.
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