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Optimal Redistributive Tax and Education Policies in General Equilibrium

  • Bas Jacobs

Should a redistributive government optimally subsidize education to provoke a reduction in the skill premium through general equilibrium effects on wages? To answer this question, this paper studies optimal linear and non-linear redistributive income taxes and education subsidies in two-type models with endogenous human capital formation, endogenous labor supply, and endogenous wage rates. Under optimal linear policies, education should not be subsidized so as to reduce the skill premium. Linear income taxes are distributionally equivalent to (negative) linear education subsidies, but linear taxes do not distort investment in human capital, whether general equilibrium effects are present or not. If skilled labor supply is more elastic than unskilled labor supply, optimal redistributive linear income taxes are lowered as the distributional gains of linear taxes are offset by a rise in the skill premium. Moreover, the optimal linear income tax may even become negative if general equilibrium effects are sufficiently strong. Under non-linear taxation, governments can directly steer the skill premium by exploiting non-linearities in the policy schedules. At the top, the optimal marginal income tax rate is negative, and the optimal marginal education subsidy is positive. At the bottom, the optimal marginal income tax rate is positive, and education is optimally taxed at the margin. Hence, optimal non-linear tax and education policies compress wage differentials, which contributes to redistribution. Simulations show that the top rate and marginal education subsidies are close to zero for a wide range of plausible parameters. Only when high-ability and low-ability workers are rather poor substitutes in production, marginal education subsidies on the high type and marginal education taxes on the low type substantially differ from zero.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2007/wp-cesifo-2007-12/cesifo1_wp2162.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2162.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2162
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  1. Allen, Franklin, 1982. "Optimal linear income taxation with general equilibrium effects on wages," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 135-143, March.
  2. Robert A.J. Dur & Coen N. Teulings, 2003. "Are Education Subsidies an Efficient Redistributive Device?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-024/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 19 Sep 2003.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521873161 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Stephen V. Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2004. "Estimation of Educational Borrowing Constraints Using Returns to Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 132-182, February.
  5. Naito, Hisahiro, 2004. "Endogenous human capital accumulation, comparative advantage and direct vs. indirect redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2685-2710, December.
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  8. Saez, Emmanuel, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 205-29, January.
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  16. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1981. "Self-Selection and Pareto Efficient Taxation," NBER Working Papers 0632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Direct or Indirect Tax Instruments for Redistribution: Short-run versus Long-run," NBER Working Papers 8833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  19. Robert A. J. Dur & Coenraad N. Teulings, 2001. "Education and Efficient Redistribution," CESifo Working Paper Series 592, CESifo Group Munich.
  20. 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.
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