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Can Redistributive State Taxes Reduce Inequality?

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  • Andrew Leigh

Abstract

Do income taxes levied at a state or regional level affect the after-tax distribution of income? Or do workers merely move between regions, causing pre-tax wages to adjust? This question is relevant both in across states in the United States, and across countries within the European Union. Using the full income tax parameters for all US states from 1977-2002, I create a “simulated tax redistribution index”, which captures the mechanical impact of the changes in tax policy on the gini coefficient, but is exogenous to any behavioral response. Analyzing the effect of this redistribution index on inequality, I find that gross wages do not adjust so as to fully offset the effect of more redistributive taxes. Exploring the adjustment process further, I create a new class of tax redistribution measures, based on the S-Gini, which differentially weight effects at the bottom and top of the distribution, and conclude that neither taxes that particularly affect the rich or the poor seem to affect the distribution of wages. Redistributive taxes do not appear to affect interstate migration or total state personal income. From a political economy perspective, I also find some evidence that more inequality leads states to implement more redistributive taxes, which may help explain why earlier studies observed a positive relationship between redistribution and inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Leigh, 2005. "Can Redistributive State Taxes Reduce Inequality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 490, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:490
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    File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP490.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Leigh Andrew, 2010. "Who Benefits from the Earned Income Tax Credit? Incidence among Recipients, Coworkers and Firms," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-43, May.
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    7. Ričardas Zitikis & Joseph L. Gastwirth, 2002. "The Asymptotic Distribution of the S-Gini Index," Australian & New Zealand Journal of Statistics, Australian Statistical Publishing Association Inc., vol. 44(4), pages 439-446, December.
    8. Joshua L. Rosenbloom & William A. Sundstrom, 2003. "The Decline and Rise of Interstate Migration in the United States: Evidence from the IPUMS, 1850-1990," NBER Working Papers 9857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-142, March.
    10. Feldstein, Martin & Wrobel, Marian Vaillant, 1998. "Can state taxes redistribute income?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 369-396, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Giertz, Seth H. & Tosun, Mehmet S., 2012. "Migration Elasticities, Fiscal Federalism, and the Ability of States to Redistribute Income," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 65(4), pages 1069-1092, December.
    2. Leigh, Andrew, 2008. "Estimating the impact of gubernatorial partisanship on policy settings and economic outcomes: A regression discontinuity approach," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 256-268, March.
    3. Ian Davidoff & Andrew Leigh, 2013. "How Do Stamp Duties Affect the Housing Market?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89(286), pages 396-410, September.
    4. Jeffrey Thompson, 2011. "The Impact of Taxes on Migration in New England," Published Studies migration_peri_april13, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    5. Roc Armenter & Francesc Ortega, 2010. "Credible Redistributive Policies and Migration across US States," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(2), pages 403-423, April.
    6. Olivier Bargain & Mathias Dolls & Herwig Immervoll & Dirk Neumann & Andreas Peichl & Nico Pestel & Sebastian Siegloch, 2011. "Tax policy and income inequality in the U.S., 1978—2009: A decomposition approach," Working Papers 215, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    7. Jeffrey Thompson, 2011. "Costly Migration and the Incidence of State and Local Taxes," Working Papers wp251, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    8. Andrew Leigh, 2005. "What’s the Difference Between a Donkey and an Elephant? Using Panel Data from US States to Estimate the Impact of Partisanship on Policy Settings and Economic Outcomes," CEPR Discussion Papers 504, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    9. Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Immervoll, Herwig & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2013. "Partisan Tax Policy and Income Inequality in the U.S., 1979-2007," IZA Discussion Papers 7190, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    taxation; redistribution; progressivity; inequality; income distribution; Gini index; S-Gini index; interstate migration;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H73 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Interjurisdictional Differentials and Their Effects
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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