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Income redistribution in a Federal system of governments

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  • Gordon, Roger H.
  • Cullen, Julie Berry

Abstract

Though the traditional literature in fiscal federalism argues that the Federal government should have primary responsibility for income redistribution, U.S. states are in fact actively engaged in redistribution. This paper develops a positive model of the respective roles of state and Federal governments that can rationalize this observation. Redistribution by states creates positive horizontal fiscal externalities to other states due to migration, but negative vertical fiscal externalities to the national government due to changes in reported taxable income. We forecast that states will engage in at least some redistribution, though to a lesser degree the greater are mobility relative to taxable income elasticities. The Federal government can then choose the degree of Federal redistribution to assure that the net externalities are zero. Given such policies, we then estimate the welfare weights and migration elasticities for different income groups that would generate the effective net tax schedules observed in the U.S. The parameter estimates are broadly plausible, suggesting that the model can help explain the division of responsibilities for redistribution between state and Federal governments.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon, Roger H. & Cullen, Julie Berry, 2012. "Income redistribution in a Federal system of governments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1100-1109.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:96:y:2012:i:11:p:1100-1109
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.07.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Bierbrauer, Felix & Brett, Craig & Weymark, John A., 2013. "Strategic nonlinear income tax competition with perfect labor mobility," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 292-311.
    2. Alessandro Bucciol & Laura Cavalli & Paolo Pertile & Veronica Polin & Alessandro Sommacal, 2016. "Redistribution at the local level: the case of public childcare in Italy," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 63(4), pages 359-378, December.
    3. Bandyopadhyay, Subhayu & Pinto, Santiago M., 2017. "Unauthorized immigration and fiscal competition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 283-305.
    4. Tóbiás, Áron, 2016. "Income redistribution in open economies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 19-34.
    5. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1258-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Sebastian Kessing & Vilen Lipatov & Jens Malte Zoubek, 2014. "Optimal Taxation under Regional Inequality," CESifo Working Paper Series 5152, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Baicker, Katherine & Clemens, Jeffrey & Singhal, Monica, 2012. "The rise of the states: U.S. fiscal decentralization in the postwar period," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1079-1091.
    8. Boadway, Robin & Tremblay, Jean-François, 2012. "Reassessment of the Tiebout model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1063-1078.
    9. Hoynes, Hilary W. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2011. "The insurance value of state tax-and-transfer programs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1466-1484.
    10. Calabrese, Stephen & Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard, 2015. "Majority choice of tax systems in single- and multi-jurisdictional economies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 58-70.
    11. Hernandez-Trillo, Fausto, 2016. "Poverty Alleviation in Federal Systems: The Case of México," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 204-214.
    12. Diego Martínez, 2014. "Vertical externalities revisited: new results with public inputs and unit taxation," Working Papers. Collection A: Public economics, governance and decentralization 1403, Universidade de Vigo, GEN - Governance and Economics research Network.
    13. Hoynes, Hilary W. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2012. "Reprint of: The insurance value of state tax-and-transfer programs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1110-1128.
    14. Robin Boadway, 2012. "Recent Advances in Optimal Income Taxation," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 200(1), pages 15-39, March.
    15. Sebastian G. Kessing & Benny Schneider, 2014. "Regional Investment and Individual Redistribution in a Federation," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 168-14, Universität Siegen, Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik und Wirtschaftsrecht.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fiscal federalism; Income redistribution; Fiscal externalities;

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations

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