IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/uwp/landec/v81y2005i3p337-352.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Distributional Weights in Cost-Benefit Analysis—Should We Forget about Them?

Author

Listed:
  • Olof Johansson-Stenman

Abstract

Many argue that it is socially inefficient to use distributional weights in cost-benefit analysis, and that doing so implies large inefficiency losses,when distributional matters can be dealt with trough income taxation, instead. Our results question this view, by showing a large range of cases when distributional weights are (second-best) optimal to use. One example is when different provided goods affect tax-revenues equally per dollar spent; utility functions that are separable in the provided goods is sufficient for this. Most results hold for linear and non-linear income taxes and whether they are optimal or not. General policy implications are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2005. "Distributional Weights in Cost-Benefit Analysis—Should We Forget about Them?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 81(3).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:81:y:2005:i:3:p337-352
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://le.uwpress.org/cgi/reprint/81/3/337
    Download Restriction: A subscripton is required to access pdf files. Pay per article is available.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 54(2), pages 189-202, June.
    2. Frank, Robert H, 2000. "Why Is Cost-Benefit Analysis So Controversial?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 913-930, June.
    3. Bromley, Daniel W., 1990. "The ideology of efficiency: Searching for a theory of policy analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 86-107, July.
    4. Usher, Dan, 2001. "Personal goods, efficiency and the law," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 673-703, November.
    5. Harberger, Arnold C, 1978. "On the Use of Distributional Weights in Social Cost-Benefit Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 87-120, April.
    6. Sandmo, Agnar, 1998. "Redistribution and the marginal cost of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 365-382, December.
    7. Diamond, P. A., 1975. "A many-person Ramsey tax rule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 335-342, November.
    8. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production: I--Production Efficiency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(1), pages 8-27, March.
    9. Sanchirico, Chris William, 2000. "Taxes versus Legal Rules as Instruments for Equity: A More Equitable View," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 797-820, June.
    10. Dasgupta, Partha, 1998. "Population, consumption and resources: Ethical issues," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2-3), pages 139-152, February.
    11. Christiansen, Vidar & Jansen, Eilev S., 1978. "Implicit social preferences in the Norwegian system of indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 217-245, October.
    12. Olof Johansson-Stenman, 1998. "On the problematic link between fundamental ethics and economic policy recommendations," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(2), pages 263-297.
    13. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    14. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Why the Legal System Is Less Efficient Than the Income Tax in Redistributing Income," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 667-681, June.
    15. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 2000. "The Optimal Size of Public Spending and the Distortionary Cost of Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(2), pages 253-272, June.
    16. Hylland, Aanund & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. " Distributional Objectives Should Affect Taxes but not Program Choice or Design," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 264-284.
    17. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2003. "Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Distributional Consequences of Government Projects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 56(2), pages 319-336, June.
    18. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Stanley Fischer, 1989. "Lectures on Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262022834.
    19. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production II: Tax Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(3), pages 261-278, June.
    20. Dahlby, Bev, 1998. "Progressive taxation and the social marginal cost of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 105-122, January.
    21. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "Should We Use Distributional Weights in CBA When Income Taxes Can Deal with Equity?," Working Papers in Economics 35, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    2. Bas Jacobs, 2018. "The marginal cost of public funds is one at the optimal tax system," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 25(4), pages 883-912, August.
    3. Ming Chung Chang & Hsiao-Ping Peng & Yan-Ching Ho, 2016. "The Social Marginal Cost Curve and a Corner Solution of the Second-Best Level of Public Good Provision: A Review and an Extension," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, Springer;Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics, vol. 152(3), pages 209-241, July.
    4. Kaplow, Louis, 2006. "Public goods and the distribution of income," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(7), pages 1627-1660, October.
    5. Ming Chung Chang & Hsiao-Ping Peng & Yan-Ching Ho, 2016. "The Social Marginal Cost Curve and a Corner Solution of the Second-best Level of Public Good Provision: A Review and an Extension," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 152(III), pages 209-241, September.
    6. Auerbach, Alan J. & Hines, James Jr., 2002. "Taxation and economic efficiency," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 21, pages 1347-1421, Elsevier.
    7. Louis Kaplow, 2020. "A Unified Perspective on Efficiency, Redistribution, and Public Policy," NBER Working Papers 26683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Gauthier, Stéphane & Laroque, Guy, 2009. "Separability and public finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1168-1174, December.
    9. Will Martin & James E. Anderson, 2005. "Costs of Taxation and the Benefits of Public Goods: The Role of Income Effects," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 617, Boston College Department of Economics.
    10. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevence of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion of Government Policy," NBER Working Papers 10490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Wendner, Ronald & Goulder, Lawrence H., 2008. "Status effects, public goods provision, and excess burden," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1968-1985, October.
    12. Bas Jacobs, 2010. "The Marginal Cost of Public Funds is One," CESifo Working Paper Series 3250, CESifo.
    13. Åsmund Sunde Valseth & Katinka Holtsmark & Bjart Holtsmark, 2019. "The costs of taxation in the presence of inequality," Discussion Papers 908, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    14. Ming Chung Chang & Shufen Wu, 2011. "Should Marginal Cost of Public Funds include the Revenue Effect?," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 147(I), pages 1-16, March.
    15. James E. Anderson & Will Martin, 2011. "Costs of Taxation and Benefits of Public Goods with Multiple Taxes and Goods," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 13(2), pages 289-309, April.
    16. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 54(2), pages 189-202, June.
    17. By Louis Kaplow, 2012. "Optimal Control Of Externalities In The Presence Of Income Taxation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 53(2), pages 487-509, May.
    18. Shun-ichiro Bessho & Masayoshi Hayashi, 2013. "Estimating the Social Marginal Cost of Public Funds," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(3), pages 360-385, May.
    19. Jacobs, Bas & de Mooij, Ruud A., 2015. "Pigou meets Mirrlees: On the irrelevance of tax distortions for the second-best Pigouvian tax," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 90-108.
    20. Louis Kaplow, 2006. "Optimal Control of Externalities in the Presence of Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 12339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:81:y:2005:i:3:p337-352. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://le.uwpress.org/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://le.uwpress.org/ .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.