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Taxation and the Allocation of Talent

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  • Eric Weyl

    (University of Chicago)

  • Charles Nathanson

    (Harvard University)

  • Ben Lockwood

    (Harvard University)

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    Abstract

    Taxation affects the allocation of talented individuals across industries by blunting material incentives and thus relatively magnifying the non-pecuniary benefits of pursuing a "calling". If higher-paying industries (e.g. finance and management) generate less positive net externalities than lower-paying professions (e.g. public service and education) this may enhance efficiency. We develop a theory of income taxation as implicit Pigouvian taxation of these externalities and calibrate it using data on the distribution of income and talent across industries. Even without any redistributive motive, tax rates are highly sensitive to the externalities assumed within a spectrum many would consider reasonable: they range from extremely regressive to highly progressive at high incomes. Our theory thus offers an alternative, pure efficiency rationale for non-linear income taxation, challenging the connection between high long-run labor supply elasticities and low optimal tax rates and motivating further study of the externalities generated by professions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2013 Meeting Papers with number 56.

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    Date of creation: 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:56

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    1. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1990. "The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth," NBER Working Papers 3530, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eric Posner & E. Glen Weyl, 2013. "Benefit-Cost Analysis for Financial Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 393-97, May.
    3. Baumol, William J, 1990. "Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 893-921, October.
    4. Piketty, Thomas & Saez, Emmanuel & Stantcheva, Stefanie, 2011. "Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities," CEPR Discussion Papers 8675, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Casey Rothschild & Florian Scheuer, 2011. "Optimal Taxation with Rent-Seeking," NBER Working Papers 17035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
    7. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
    8. Mankiw, N. Gregory & Weinzierl, Matthew Charles & Yagan, Danny Ferris, 2009. "Optimal Taxation in Theory and Practice," Scholarly Articles 4263739, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    9. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2011. "The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood," NBER Working Papers 17699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jon Bakija & Adam Cole & Bradley Heim, 2008. "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-22, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jan 2012.
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