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Redistributive taxation with heterogeneous relative consumption concerns


  • Stefan Dodds


This paper studies the impact of redistributive income taxation in a society where only some individuals are motivated by relative consumption concerns. Introducing this heterogeneity raises theoretical challenges since (i) earned income becomes an imperfect indicator of underlying ability and (ii) relative concerns may be inadmissable in the social objective. A new behavioural model is developed in which only relatively-concerned individuals choose work effort strategically. Linear tax/transfer systems schemes are then characterized and simulated for a series of welfarist and non-welfarist social objectives, and for different degrees of preference heterogeneity. A key result is that a government which understands the extent of relative consumption concerns-but places no social weight on individuals with such preferences-nevertheless sets a significantly more progressive tax system than a government which ignores relative consumption motivations altogether.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Dodds, 2012. "Redistributive taxation with heterogeneous relative consumption concerns," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 45(1), pages 220-246, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:45:y:2012:i:1:p:220-246

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. A.L Robb & L. Magee & J.B. Burbidge, 2003. "WAGES in CANADA: SCF, SLID, LFS and the Skill Premium," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 106, McMaster University.
    3. Papke, Leslie E., 1991. "Interstate business tax differentials and new firm location : Evidence from panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 47-68, June.
    4. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2000. "Cohort patterns in Canadian earnings: assessing the role of skill premia in inequality trends," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 33(4), pages 907-936, November.
    5. Mervyn A. King & Don Fullerton, 1984. "Introduction to "The Taxation of Income from Capital: A Comparative Study of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany"," NBER Chapters,in: The Taxation of Income from Capital: A Comparative Study of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Peter Birch Sørensen (ed.), 2004. "Measuring the Tax Burden on Capital and Labor," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262195038, July.
    7. A. L. Robb & L. Magee & J. B. Burbidge, 1992. "Kernel Smoothed Consumption-Age Quantiles," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 25(3), pages 669-680, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Goerke, Laszlo, 2013. "Relative consumption and tax evasion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 52-65.
    2. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2014. "Paternalism against Veblen: Optimal Taxation and Non-Respected Preferences for Social Comparisons," Umeå Economic Studies 901, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
    3. Goerke, Laszlo & Hillesheim, Inga, 2013. "Relative consumption, working time, and trade unions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 170-179.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies


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