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Does the progressivity of taxes matter for economic growth?

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Author Info

  • Elizabeth M. Caucutt
  • Selahattin Imrohoroglu
  • Krishna B. Kumar

Abstract

A sizeable literature has argued that the growth effects of changes in flat rate taxes are small. In this paper, we investigate the relatively unexplored area of the growth effect of changes in the tax structure, in particular, in the progressivity of taxes. Considering such a tax reform seems empirically more relevant than considering changes in flat tax rates. We construct a general equilibrium model of endogenous growth in which there is heterogeneity in income and in the tax rates. We limit heterogeneity to two types, skilled and unskilled, and posit that the probability of staying or becoming skilled in the subsequent period depends positively on expenses on "teacher" time. In the production sector, we consider two sources of growth. In the first, growth arises as a purely external effect on account of production activities of skilled workers. In the second, a portion of the skilled workforce is used to work in research and other productivity enhancing activities and is compensated for it. Our analysis shows that changes in the progressivity of tax rates can have positive growth effects even in situations where changes in flat rate taxes have no effect. Experiments on a calibrated model indicate that the quantitative effects of moving to a flat rate system are economically significant. The assumption made about the engine of growth has an important effect on the impact of a change in progressivity. Quantitatively, welfare is unambiguously higher in a flat rate system when comparisons are made across balanced growth equilibria; however, when the costs of transition to the higher growth equilibrium is taken into account only the currently rich slightly prefer the flat rate system.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 138.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:138

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Related research

Keywords: Taxation ; Economic development;

References

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  1. Steven P. Cassou & Kevin J. Lansing, 1996. "Growth effects of a flat tax," Working Paper 9615, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  2. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Endogenous Technological Change," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2135, David K. Levine.
  3. Nancy L. Stokey, 1990. "Human Capital, Product Quality, and Growth," Discussion Papers 883, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Richard Rogerson, 2010. "Indivisible Labor, Lotteries and Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 250, David K. Levine.
  5. Stokey, Nancy L & Rebelo, Sergio, 1995. "Growth Effects of Flat-Rate Taxes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 519-50, June.
  6. Asea, Patrick & Mendoza, Enrique G & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 1996. "On the Ineffectiveness of Tax Policy in Altering Long- Run Growth: Harberger's Superneutrality Conjecture," CEPR Discussion Papers 1378, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  8. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
  9. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  10. James A. Kahn & Jong-Soo Lim, 1997. "Skilled labor -- augmenting technical progress in U.S. manufacturing," Research Paper 9738, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  11. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  12. Jones, Larry E & Manuelli, Rodolfo E & Rossi, Peter E, 1993. "Optimal Taxation in Models of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 485-517, June.
  13. Caucutt, Elizabeth M. & Kumar, Krishna B., 2003. "Higher education subsidies and heterogeneity: a dynamic analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1459-1502, June.
  14. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  15. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Galor, O. & Tsiddon, D., 1996. "Technological Progress, Mobility and Economic Growth," Papers 13-96, Tel Aviv.
  17. Eicher, Theo S, 1996. "Interaction between Endogenous Human Capital and Technological Change," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(1), pages 127-44, January.
  18. Blankenau, William F. & Ingram, Beth F., 2002. "Welfare Implications Of Factor Taxation With Rising Wage Inequality," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(03), pages 408-428, June.
  19. Robert G. King & Sergio Rebelo, 1990. "Public Policy and Economic Growth: Developing Neoclassical Implications," NBER Working Papers 3338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli, 1990. "Finite Lifetimes and Growth," NBER Working Papers 3469, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Ayse Imrohoroglu & Selahattin Imrohoroglu & Douglas H. Joines, 1999. "Social Security in an Overlapping Generations Economy with Land," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 638-665, July.
  22. Uhlig, Harald & Yanagawa, Noriyuki, 1996. "Increasing the capital income tax may lead to faster growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(8), pages 1521-1540, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Marek Kapicka, 2006. "Optimal Income Taxation with Human Capital Accumulation and Limited Record Keeping," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 612-639, October.
  2. Caucutt, Elizabeth M. & Kumar, Krishna B., 2003. "Higher education subsidies and heterogeneity: a dynamic analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1459-1502, June.
  3. Elizabeth M. Caucutt & Selahattin Imrohoroglu & Krishna B. Kumar, 2003. "Growth and Welfare Analysis of Tax Progressivity in a Heterogeneous-Agent Model," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(3), pages 546-577, July.

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