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Is Prescott Right? Welfare State Policies and the Incentives to Work, Learn and Retire

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  • Bas Jacobs

Abstract

This paper bolsters Prescott’s (2004) claim that high taxes are responsible for lacklustre labor market performance in continental European countries. We develop a lifecycle model with endogenous skill formation, endogenous labor supply, and endogenous retirement. Labor taxation distorts not only labor supply, but also education and retirement decisions. Actuarially unfair pensions further exacerbate labor tax distortions on retirement. Education subsidies can nevertheless cushion the adverse impact of taxation on skill formation. Feedbacks between education, labor supply, and retirement are important. The model is simulated with realistic behavioral elasticities that are consistent with microeconometric evidence. If, besides labor supply, also learning and retirement are endogenous, the uncompensated (compensated) elasticity of the tax base equals 0.46 (0.85), which is more than twice as large as the standard uncompensated (compensated) labor supply elasticity of 0.18 (0.40). Furthermore, life-cycle interactions between education, working and retirement are quantitatively important and the interactions raise all behavioral elasticities substantially. For example, the uncompensated labor supply elasticity increases with one-half due to life-cycle interactions (to 0.26). We demonstrate that low European labor supply can be fully explained by taxation without relying on unrealistically high labor supply elasticities. Reducing labor market distortions, cutting benefit levels, lowering tax rates, and making (early) retirement actuarially fairer, therefore boosts labor supply, delays retirement, and stimulates skill formation. In addition, high education subsidies are needed in large welfare states to off-set explicit and implicit tax burdens on human capital investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Bas Jacobs, 2008. "Is Prescott Right? Welfare State Policies and the Incentives to Work, Learn and Retire," CESifo Working Paper Series 2277, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2277
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Charlot, Olivier & Decreuse, Bruno, 2010. "Over-education for the rich, under-education for the poor: A search-theoretic microfoundation," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 886-896, December.
    2. Eric French, 2005. "The Effects of Health, Wealth, and Wages on Labour Supply and Retirement Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 395-427.
    3. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2007. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521873161.
    4. Angel de la Fuente & Rafael Doménech, 2006. "Human Capital in Growth Regressions: How Much Difference Does Data Quality Make?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 1-36, March.
    5. Bas Jacobs, 2005. "Optimal Income Taxation with Endogenous Human Capital," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(2), pages 295-315, May.
    6. A. Lans Bovenberg & Bas Jacobs, 2005. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-036/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    7. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
    8. Lans Bovenberg, A. & Jacobs, Bas, 2005. "Redistribution and education subsidies are Siamese twins," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2005-2035, December.
    9. Frederick VAN DER PLOEG, 2004. "DO SOCIAL POLICIES HARM EMPLOYMENT? Second-best effects of taxes and benefits on labor markets," Economics Working Papers ECO2004/11, European University Institute.
    10. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1039-1073.
    11. Bas Jacobs, 2007. "Real Options and Human Capital Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 1982, CESifo Group Munich.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    skill formation; human capital; labor supply; retirement; tax policy; benefit systems; pension policy; welfare state;

    JEL classification:

    • E20 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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