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Optimal tax policy and expected longevity: a mean and variance utility approach

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  • Marie-Louise Leroux

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  • Gregory Ponthiere

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Abstract

This paper studies the normative problem of redistribution between agents who can influence their survival probability through private health spending, but who differ in their attitude towards the risks involved in the lotteries of life to be chosen. For that purpose, a two-period model is developed, where agents’ preferences on lotteries of life can be represented by a mean and variance utility function allowing, unlike the expected utility form, some sensitivity to what Allais (Econometrica 21(4), 503–546, 1953 ) calls the ‘dispersion of psychological values’. It is shown that if agents ignore the impact of health spending on the return of their savings, the decentralization of the first-best utilitarian optimum requires intergroup lump sum transfers and group-specific positive taxes on health spending. Under asymmetric information, a differentiated taxation across agents is still required, but subsidizing health spending may be optimal as a way to solve the incentive problem. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Suggested Citation

  • Marie-Louise Leroux & Gregory Ponthiere, 2009. "Optimal tax policy and expected longevity: a mean and variance utility approach," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(4), pages 514-537, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:16:y:2009:i:4:p:514-537 DOI: 10.1007/s10797-009-9106-3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 277-291, March.
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    3. Tomas J. Philipson & Gary S. Becker, 1998. "Old-Age Longevity and Mortality-Contingent Claims," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 551-573, June.
    4. Eytan Sheshinski, 2007. "Introduction to The Economic Theory of Annuities," Introductory Chapters,in: The Economic Theory of Annuities Princeton University Press.
    5. Antoine Bommier, 2006. "Uncertain Lifetime And Intertemporal Choice: Risk Aversion As A Rationale For Time Discounting," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1223-1246, November.
    6. LEROUX, Marie-Louise, 2008. "Endogenous differential mortality, non monitored effort and optimal non linear taxation," CORE Discussion Papers 2008029, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    7. Eytan Sheshinski, 2007. "The Economic Theory of Annuities," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 8536, June.
    8. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
    9. Chris Starmer, 2000. "Developments in Non-expected Utility Theory: The Hunt for a Descriptive Theory of Choice under Risk," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(2), pages 332-382, June.
    10. Frederick Mosteller & Philip Nogee, 1951. "An Experimental Measurement of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59, pages 371-371.
    11. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1987. "Some implications of a more general form of regret theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 270-287, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. LEROUX, Marie-Louise & PESTIEAU, Pierre & PONTHIÈRE, Grégory, 2008. "Should we subsidize longevity?," CORE Discussion Papers 2008058, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    2. Marie-Louise Leroux & Grégory Ponthière, 2013. "Optimal prevention when coexistence matters," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(3), pages 1095-1127, July.
    3. Leroux, Marie-Louise & Pestieau, Pierre & Ponthière, Grégory, 2015. "Longévité différentielle et redistribution : enjeux théoriques et empiriques," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 91(4), pages 465-497, Décembre.
    4. Pierre Pestieau & Gregory Ponthiere, 2012. "The Public Economics of Increasing Longevity," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 200(1), pages 41-74, March.
    5. Leroux, Marie-Louise & Ponthiere, Gregory, 2013. "Utilitarianism and unequal longevities: A remedy?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 888-899.
    6. Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthiere, 2012. "On the Policy Implications of Changing Longevity," CESifo Working Paper Series 3926, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. LEROUX, Marie - Louise & PONTHIERE, Grégory, 2009. "Wives, husbands and wheelchairs : Optimal tax policy under gender-specific health," CORE Discussion Papers 2009071, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Longevity; Risk; Lotteries of life; Non-expected utility theory; Moments of utility theory; Disappointment; Health spending; D81; H21; I12; I18; J18;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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