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Unequal wages for equal utilities

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  • CREMER, Helmuth
  • PESTIEAU, Pierre
  • RACIONERO, Mario

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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Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in its series CORE Discussion Papers RP with number -2369.

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Handle: RePEc:cor:louvrp:-2369

Note: In : International Tax and Public Finance, 18(4), 383-398, 2011
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  1. A. Lans Bovenberg & Bas Jacobs, 2005. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-036/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Brett, Craig & Weymark, John A., 2008. "The impact of changing skill levels on optimal nonlinear income taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(7), pages 1765-1771, July.
  6. 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.
  7. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Government Intervention in the Markets for Education and Health Care: How and Why?," NBER Chapters, in: Individual and Social Responsibility: Child Care, Education, Medical Care, and Long-Term Care in America, pages 277-308 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Bovenberg, A.L. & Jacobs, B., 2001. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," Discussion Paper 2001-82, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  9. Battaglini, Marco & Coate, Stephen, 2008. "Pareto efficient income taxation with stochastic abilities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 844-868, April.
  10. Ulph, David, 1977. "On the optimal distribution of income and educational expenditure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 341-356, December.
  11. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1981. "Self-Selection and Pareto Efficient Taxation," NBER Working Papers 0632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Bruno, Michael, 1976. "Equality, complementarity and the incidence of public expenditures," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 395-407, November.
  14. Booth, A.L. & Coles, M.G., 2010. "Tax policy and returns to education," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 291-301, January.
  15. 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.
  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 & DE DONDER, Philippe & PESTIEAU, Pierre, 2009. "Education and social mobility," CORE Discussion Papers 2009023, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  2. Efthymios Athanasiou, 2012. "Endogenous productivity and equality of opportunity," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 59-89, June.
  3. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Roeder, Kerstin, 2012. "United but (Un-)Equal: Human Capital, Probability of Divorce and the Marriage Contract," IZA Discussion Papers 7038, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  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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