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Optimal Tax-Subsidy Policies for Industrial Adjustment to Uncertain Shocks


  • Boadway, Robin W
  • Wildasin, David E


This paper analyzes the role of government policy when random shocks affect particular industries, occupations, or regions. Workers can freely choose an industry or occupation ex ante, and can relocate, but only at a cost, once uncertainty is resolved. The policy instruments available to the government are per capita taxes and subsidies. These are chosen either to maximize ex post utilitarian aggregate welfare, treating the initial assignment of workers as exogenously fixed (ex post optimal policy), or to maximize the ex ante expected utility of a representative workers, taking the effect of policy choice on the ex ante allocation of labor into account (ex ante optimal). Ex ante and ex post optimal policies are compared, with or without institutional constraints on the set of instruments. Optimal policies range from complete equalization of net incomes across workers to no equalizing transfers at all depending on the instruments available and the nature of relocation costs. Copyright 1990 by Royal Economic Society.

Suggested Citation

  • Boadway, Robin W & Wildasin, David E, 1990. "Optimal Tax-Subsidy Policies for Industrial Adjustment to Uncertain Shocks," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(1), pages 105-134, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:42:y:1990:i:1:p:105-34

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pazner, Elisha A, 1972. "Merit Wants and the Theory of Taxation," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 27(4), pages 460-472.
    2. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
    3. Christiansen, Vidar, 1984. "Which commodity taxes should supplement the income tax?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 195-220, July.
    4. Neary, J. P. & Roberts, K. W. S., 1980. "The theory of household behaviour under rationing," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 25-42, January.
    5. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059, June.
    6. Besley, Timothy, 1988. "A simple model for merit good arguments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 371-383, April.
    7. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
    8. Sandmo, Agnar, 1983. "Ex Post Welfare Economics and the Theory of Merit Goods," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 19-33, February.
    9. Mirrless, J. A., 1975. "Optimal commodity taxation in a two-class economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 27-33, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wilson, John Douglas & Wildasin, David E., 2004. "Capital tax competition: bane or boon," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(6), pages 1065-1091, June.
    2. Mitsui, Kiyoshi & Sato, Motohiro, 2001. "Ex ante free mobility, ex post immobility, and time consistency in a federal system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 445-460, December.
    3. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1996. "Social insurance, incentives and risk taking," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 3(3), pages 259-280, July.
    4. Boadway, Robin & Marceau, Nicolas & Marchand, Maurice, 1996. "Time-consistent subsidies to unlucky firms," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 619-634, April.
    5. Augustine A. Osagiede & Virtue U. Ekhosuehi, 2015. "A theoretical framework for determining the appropriate level of subsidy in an economy," Operations Research and Decisions, Wroclaw University of Technology, Institute of Organization and Management, vol. 2, pages 19-34.
    6. Motohiro Sato, 2000. "Fiscal Externalities and Efficient Transfers in a Federation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 7(2), pages 119-139, March.
    7. Linda Andersson, 2008. "Fiscal Flows and Financial Markets: To What Extent Do They Provide Risk Sharing within Sweden?," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1003-1011.

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