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Tobin Meets Oates: Solidarity and the Optimal Fiscal Federal Structure

  • Xavier Calsamiglia
  • Teresa Garcia-Milà
  • Therese J. McGuire

We explore the implications for the optimal degree of fiscal decentralization when peoples preferences for goods and services, which classic treatments of fiscal federalism (Oates, 1972) place in the purview of local governments, exhibit specific egalitarianism (Tobin, 1970), or solidarity. We find that a system in which the central government provides a common minimum level of the publicly provided good, and local governments are allowed to use their own resources to provide an even higher local level, performs better from an efficiency perspective relative to all other systems analyzed for a relevant range of preferences over solidarity.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 486.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:486
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  1. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Ignazio Angeloni & Federico Etro, 2005. "International Unions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 602-615, June.
  3. Lockwood, Ben, 1997. "Inter-Regional Insurance," Discussion Papers 9703, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
  4. Brown, Charles C. & Oates, Wallace E., 1987. "Assistance to the poor in a federal system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 307-330, April.
  5. Tobin, James, 1970. "On Limiting the Domain of Inequality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 263-77, October.
  6. Pauly, Mark V., 1973. "Income redistribution as a local public good," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 35-58, February.
  7. James Konow, 2003. "Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1188-1239, December.
  8. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "Centralized versus decentralized provision of local public goods: a political economy approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2611-2637, December.
  9. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1996. "Federal Fiscal Constitutions: Risk Sharing and Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 979-1009, October.
  10. Card, David & Payne, A. Abigail, 2002. "School finance reform, the distribution of school spending, and the distribution of student test scores," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 49-82, January.
  11. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
  12. Crémer, Jacques & Palfrey, Thomas, 2000. "Federal Mandates by Popular Demand," IDEI Working Papers 120, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised 2001.
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