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Can pollution tax rebates protect low-wage earners?

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  • Fullerton, Don
  • Monti, Holly

Abstract

Pollution taxes are believed to burden low-income households that spend a greater than average share of income on pollution-intensive goods. Some proposals offset that effect by returning revenue to low-income workers via reduced labor tax. We build analytical general equilibrium models with both high-skilled and low-skilled labor, and we solve for the change in real net wage of each group. Decomposition shows the separate effects of the tax rebate, higher product prices, and the changes in relative wage rates. We also include numerical examples. Even though the pollution tax injures both types of labor, in most cases we find that returning all of the revenue to low-skilled workers is still not enough to offset higher product prices. Changes in relative wage rates may further hurt low-skilled labor. Protecting low-income workers is possible in this model only if they are defined as those below a relatively low wage threshold, but we discuss many possible elaborations of this model that could affect those results.

Suggested Citation

  • Fullerton, Don & Monti, Holly, 2013. "Can pollution tax rebates protect low-wage earners?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 539-553.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:66:y:2013:i:3:p:539-553
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2013.09.001
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    Cited by:

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    3. Bas Jacobs & Rick van der Ploeg, 2017. "Should Pollution Taxes be Targeted at Income Redistribution?," CESifo Working Paper Series 6599, CESifo.
    4. Acocella, Nicola & Di Giovanni, Tomasz, 2019. "Natural Resources and Environment Preservation: Strategic Substitutability vs. Complementarity in Global and Local Public Good Provision," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 13(3-4), pages 203-227, September.
    5. Franziska Klein & Jeroen van den Bergh, 2021. "The employment double dividend of environmental tax reforms: exploring the role of agent behaviour and social interaction," Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 189-213, April.
    6. Philippe Bontems & Estelle Gozlan, 2018. "Trade, environment, and income inequality: An optimal taxation approach," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 20(4), pages 557-581, August.
    7. Zhang, Zengkai & Zhang, Zhongxiang, 2017. "Intermediate input linkage and carbon leakage," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(6), pages 725-746, December.
    8. Klenert, David & Mattauch, Linus, 2016. "How to make a carbon tax reform progressive: The role of subsistence consumption," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 100-103.
    9. Cloé Garnache & Pierre Mérel, 2020. "Environmental Policy in General Equilibrium: New Insights from a Canonical Model," CESifo Working Paper Series 8354, CESifo.
    10. Farrell, Niall, 2017. "What Factors Drive Inequalities in Carbon Tax Incidence? Decomposing Socioeconomic Inequalities in Carbon Tax Incidence in Ireland," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 31-45.
    11. David Klenert & Gregor Schwerhoff & Ottmar Edenhofer & Linus Mattauch, 2018. "Environmental Taxation, Inequality and Engel’s Law: The Double Dividend of Redistribution," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 71(3), pages 605-624, November.
    12. Garth Heutel & Xin Zhang, 2020. "Efficiency Wages, Unemployment, and Environmental Policy," NBER Working Papers 27960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Abrell, Jan & Rausch, Sebastian & Schwarz, Giacomo A., 2018. "How robust is the uniform emissions pricing rule to social equity concerns?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 783-814.
    14. Acocella Nicola & Di Bartolomeo Giovanni, 2018. "Natural resources and environment preservation: Strategic substitutability vs. complementarity in global and local public good provision," wp.comunite 00139, Department of Communication, University of Teramo.
    15. Rausch, Sebastian & Schwarz, Giacomo A., 2016. "Household heterogeneity, aggregation, and the distributional impacts of environmental taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 43-57.
    16. Sebastian Rausch & Hidemichi Yonezawa, 2018. "The Intergenerational Incidence Of Green Tax Reform," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 9(01), pages 1-25, February.
    17. Karney, Daniel H., 2016. "General equilibrium models with Morishima elasticities of substitution in production," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 266-277.
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    19. Xavier Labandeira & José M. Labeaga & Xiral López-Otero, 2019. "New Green Tax Reforms: Ex-Ante Assessments for Spain," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(20), pages 1-25, October.
    20. Qian Wang & Qiao-Mei Liang, 2015. "Will a carbon tax hinder China’s efforts to improve its primary income distribution status?," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 20(8), pages 1407-1436, December.

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