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Optimal Redistributive Tax and Education Policies in General Equilibrium

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  • Bas Jacobs

Abstract

Should a redistributive government optimally subsidize education to provoke a reduction in the skill premium through general equilibrium effects on wages? To answer this question, this paper studies optimal linear and non-linear redistributive income taxes and education subsidies in two-type models with endogenous human capital formation, endogenous labor supply, and endogenous wage rates. Under optimal linear policies, education should not be subsidized so as to reduce the skill premium. Linear income taxes are distributionally equivalent to (negative) linear education subsidies, but linear taxes do not distort investment in human capital, whether general equilibrium effects are present or not. If skilled labor supply is more elastic than unskilled labor supply, optimal redistributive linear income taxes are lowered as the distributional gains of linear taxes are offset by a rise in the skill premium. Moreover, the optimal linear income tax may even become negative if general equilibrium effects are sufficiently strong. Under non-linear taxation, governments can directly steer the skill premium by exploiting non-linearities in the policy schedules. At the top, the optimal marginal income tax rate is negative, and the optimal marginal education subsidy is positive. At the bottom, the optimal marginal income tax rate is positive, and education is optimally taxed at the margin. Hence, optimal non-linear tax and education policies compress wage differentials, which contributes to redistribution. Simulations show that the top rate and marginal education subsidies are close to zero for a wide range of plausible parameters. Only when high-ability and low-ability workers are rather poor substitutes in production, marginal education subsidies on the high type and marginal education taxes on the low type substantially differ from zero.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2162.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2162

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Keywords: human capital; general equilibrium; education subsidies; optimal taxation; direct and indirect redistribution;

References

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  1. Feldstein, Martin, 1973. "On the optimal progressivity of the income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 357-376.
  2. Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Direct or indirect tax instruments for redistribution: short-run versus long-run," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 503-518, March.
  3. Allen, Franklin, 1982. "Optimal linear income taxation with general equilibrium effects on wages," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 135-143, March.
  4. Robert Dur & Coen Teulings, 2003. "Are Education Subsides an Efficient Redistributive Device?," CEE Discussion Papers 0030, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
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  8. Naito, Hisahiro, 2004. "Endogenous human capital accumulation, comparative advantage and direct vs. indirect redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2685-2710, December.
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  16. 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.
  17. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 7628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Naito, Hisahiro, 1999. "Re-examination of uniform commodity taxes under a non-linear income tax system and its implication for production efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 165-188, February.
  19. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  20. Stephen V. Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2004. "Estimation of Educational Borrowing Constraints Using Returns to Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 132-182, February.
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Cited by:
  1. C. Mendolicchio & D. Paolini & T. Pietra, 2010. "Income taxes, subsidies to education, and investments in human capital," Working Papers 701, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  2. Marie-Hélène Cloutier & John Cockburn & Bernard Decaluwé, 2008. "Education and Poverty in Vietnam: a Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," Cahiers de recherche 0804, CIRPEE.
  3. Bas Jacobs & A. Lans Bovenberg, 2011. "Optimal Taxation of Human Capital and the Earnings Function," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 13(6), pages 957-971, December.

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