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Impacts of a carbon tax across US household income groups: What are the equity-efficiency trade-offs?

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  • Goulder, Lawrence H.
  • Hafstead, Marc A.C.
  • Kim, GyuRim
  • Long, Xianling

Abstract

This paper assesses the impacts across U.S. household income groups of carbon taxes of various designs. We consider both the source-side impacts (reflecting how policies affect wage, capital, and transfer incomes) as well as the use-side impacts (reflecting how policies alter the prices of goods and services purchased by households). We apply an integrated general equilibrium framework with extended measures of the source- and use-side impacts that add up to the overall welfare impact. Our results indicate that the distributional impacts depend importantly on the nature of revenue-recycling and the treatment of transfer income. In the absence of targeted compensation to achieve distributional objectives, the use-side impacts tend to be regressive while the source-side impacts are progressive, and the progressive source-side impacts tend to offset fully the regressive use-side impacts. Both impacts are considerably larger when one employs the more comprehensive welfare measures introduced in this study. The efficiency costs of targeted compensation to achieve distributional objectives depend critically on the recycling method and compensation target. These costs are an order of magnitude higher when the remaining revenues after compensation are used for corporate income tax cuts, compared with costs when remaining revenues are used other ways. Efficiency costs also rise dramatically when targeted compensation extends beyond the lowest income quintiles.

Suggested Citation

  • Goulder, Lawrence H. & Hafstead, Marc A.C. & Kim, GyuRim & Long, Xianling, 2019. "Impacts of a carbon tax across US household income groups: What are the equity-efficiency trade-offs?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 175(C), pages 44-64.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:175:y:2019:i:c:p:44-64
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2019.04.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Donna, Javier D., 2018. "Measuring Long-Run Price Elasticities in Urban Travel Demand," MPRA Paper 92233, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Robert N. Stavins, 2019. "The Future of U.S. Carbon-Pricing Policy," NBER Chapters, in: Environmental and Energy Policy and the Economy, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Fremstad, Anders & Paul, Mark, 2019. "The Impact of a Carbon Tax on Inequality," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 88-97.
    4. Bercholz, Maxime & Roantree, Barra, 2019. "Carbon taxes and compensation options," Papers BP2020/1, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    5. Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2019. "The distributional impacts of U.S. energy policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 926-929.
    6. Stavins, Robert N., 2019. "The Future of U.S. Carbon-Pricing Policy: Normative Assessment and Positive Prognosis," Working Paper Series rwp19-017, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    7. Kirchner, Mathias & Sommer, Mark & Kratena, Kurt & Kletzan-Slamanig, Daniela & Kettner-Marx, Claudia, 2019. "CO2 taxes, equity and the double dividend – Macroeconomic model simulations for Austria," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 295-314.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Carbon tax; Household distributional impacts; General equilibrium; Costs of compensation;

    JEL classification:

    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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