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Optimal Taxation of Risky Human Capital

  • Bas Jacobs
  • Dirk Schindler
  • Hongyan Yang

In a model with ex-ante homogenous households, earnings risk and a general earnings function, we derive the optimal linear labor tax rate and optimal linear education subsidies. The optimal income tax trades off social insurance against incentives to work and to invest in human capital. Education subsidies are not used for social insurance, but are only targeted at off-setting the distortions of the labor tax and internalizing a fiscal externality. Both optimal education subsidies and tax rates increase if labor and education are more complementary, since education subsidies indirectly lower labor tax distortions by stimulating labor supply. Optimal education subsidies (taxes) also correct non-tax distortions arising from missing insurance markets. Education subsidies internalize a positive (negative) fiscal externality if there is underinvestment (overinvestment) in education due to risk. Education policy unambiguously allows for more social insurance if education is a risky activity. However, if education hedges against labor market risk, optimal tax rates could be lower than without education subsidies.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2529.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2529
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  1. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587, 07.
  2. Eaton, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S., 1980. "Labor supply, uncertainty, and efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 365-374, December.
  3. Costa, Carlos Eugênio da & Maestri, Lucas Jóver, 2004. "The risk-properties of human capital and the design of government policies," Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 554, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  4. Bas Jacobs & A. Lans Bovenberg, 2011. "Optimal Taxation of Human Capital and the Earnings Function," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 13(6), pages 957-971, December.
  5. von Weizsäcker, Robert K & Wigger, Berthold, 1998. "Risk, Resources and Education," CEPR Discussion Papers 1808, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1995. "Uncertainty, Optimal Taxation and the Direct versus Indirect Tax Controversy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(432), pages 1165-79, September.
  7. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2007. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521873161.
  8. Anderberg, Dan & Andersson, Fredrik, 2003. "Investments in human capital, wage uncertainty, and public policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1521-1537, August.
  9. Gould, Eric D & Moav, Omer & Weinberg, Bruce A, 2001. " Precautionary Demand for Education, Inequality, and Technological Progress," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 285-315, December.
  10. Bovenberg, A Lans & Jacobs, Bas, 2001. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," CEPR Discussion Papers 3099, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2002. "Earnings Dispersion, Risk Aversion and Education," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-20, CIRANO.
  12. Grochulski, Borys & Piskorski, Tomasz, 2010. "Risky human capital and deferred capital income taxation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(3), pages 908-943, May.
  13. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," Working Papers 2001-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  14. Dan Anderberg, 2009. "Optimal Policy and the Risk-Properties of Human Capital Reconsidered," 2009 Meeting Papers 166, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  15. Levhari, David & Weiss, Yoram, 1974. "The Effect of Risk on the Investment in Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 950-63, December.
  16. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1996. "Social insurance, incentives and risk taking," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 259-280, July.
  17. Diamond, P. A. & Mirrlees, J. A., 1978. "A model of social insurance with variable retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 295-336, December.
  18. Bas Jacobs & A. Bovenberg, 2010. "Human capital and optimal positive taxation of capital income," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 17(5), pages 451-478, October.
  19. Varian, Hal R., 1980. "Redistributive taxation as social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 49-68, August.
  20. Bas Jacobs & A. Lans Bovenberg, 2005. "Human Capital and Optimal Positive Taxation of Capital Income," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-035/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  21. A. Lans Bovenberg & Bas Jacobs, 2005. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-036/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  22. repec:dgr:uvatin:2005036 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Ivan Werning, 2007. "New Dynamic Public Finance: A User's Guide," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 317-388 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Feldstein, Martin S, 1972. "Distributional Equity and the Optimal Structure of Public Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(1), pages 32-36, March.
  25. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1995. "Uncertainty and optimal taxation: In defense of commodity taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 291-310, February.
  26. Kaplow, Louis, 1994. "Taxation and Risk Taking: A General Equilibrium Perspective," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(4), pages 789-98, December.
  27. 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, 05.
  28. repec:dgr:uvatin:2005035 is not listed on IDEAS
  29. Louis Kaplow, 1991. "Taxation and Risk Taking: A General Equilibrium Perspective," NBER Working Papers 3709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Hamilton, Jonathan H, 1987. "Optimal Wage and Income Taxation with Wage Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 28(2), pages 373-88, June.
  31. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1986. " Payroll-Tax Financed Social Insurance with Variable Retirement," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 25-50.
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