IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Tax reforms and inequality: theoretical and empirical implications


  • Theo Eicher
  • Stephen Turnovsky
  • Maria Carme Riera i Prunera

    (Universitat de Barcelona)


In this paper we examine the effect of tax policy on the relationship between inequality and growth in a two-sector non-scale model. With non-scale models, the longrun equilibrium growth rate is determined by technological parameters and it is independent of macroeconomic policy instruments. However, this fact does not imply that fiscal policy is unimportant for long-run economic performance. It indeed has important effects on the different levels of key economic variables such as per capita stock of capital and output. Hence, although the economy grows at the same rate across steady states, the bases for economic growth may be different. The model has three essential features. First, we explicitly model skill accumulation, second, we introduce government finance into the production function, and we introduce an income tax to mirror the fiscal events of the 1980s and 1990s in the US. The fact that the non-scale model is associated with higher order dynamics enables it to replicate the distinctly non-linear nature of inequality in the US with relative ease. The results derived in this paper attract attention to the fact that the non-scale growth model does not only fit the US data well for the long-run (Jones, 1995b) but also that it possesses unique abilities in explaining short term fluctuations of the economy. It is shown that during transition the response of the relative simulated wage to changes in the tax code is rather non-monotonic, quite in accordance to the US inequality pattern in the 1980s and early 1990s. More specifically, we have analyzed in detail the dynamics following the simulation of an isolated tax decrease and an isolated tax increase. So, after a tax decrease the skill premium follows a lower trajectory than the one it would follow without a tax decrease. Hence we are able to reduce inequality for several periods after the fiscal shock. On the contrary, following a tax increase, the evolution of the skill premium remains above the trajectory carried on by the skill premium under a situation with no tax increase. Consequently, a tax increase would imply a higher level of inequality in the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Theo Eicher & Stephen Turnovsky & Maria Carme Riera i Prunera, 2002. "Tax reforms and inequality: theoretical and empirical implications," Working Papers in Economics 82, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia.
  • Handle: RePEc:bar:bedcje:200282

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chiu, W Henry, 1998. "Income Inequality, Human Capital Accumulation and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 44-59, January.
    2. Galor, Oded & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1996. "Income Distribution and Growth: The Kuznets Hypothesis Revisited," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 63(250), pages 103-117, Suppl..
    3. Felder, Stefan, 1997. "Tax Reform in a Two-Class Growth Model," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 273-291.
    4. Cummins, Jason G. & Hassett, Kevin A. & Hubbard, R. Glenn, 1996. "Tax reforms and investment: A cross-country comparison," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 237-273, October.
    5. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    6. Chang, Roberto, 1998. "Political party negotiations, income distribution, and endogenous growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 227-255, April.
    7. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
    8. Jason G. Cummins & Kevin A. Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1994. "A Reconsideration of Investment Behavior Using Tax Reforms as Natural Experiments," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 1-74.
    9. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
    10. Cecilia Garcia PeƱalosa, 1994. "Inequality and growth: a note on recent theories," Investigaciones Economicas, FundaciĆ³n SEPI, vol. 18(1), pages 97-116, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


    Access and download statistics


    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:bar:bedcje:200282. 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: (Espai de Recerca en Economia). General contact details of provider: .

    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 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.

    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.