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Shutting the Stable Door after the Horse Has Bolted? On Educational Risk and the Quality of Education


  • Dirk Schindler
  • Benjamin Weigert


We analyze whether a redistributive government should provide ex ante insurance against unfortunate outcomes or whether it should instead rely on transfers for redistributing income ex post. To this end, we develop a model of education in which individuals face educational risk and wage dispersion across two types of skills. Successful graduation and working as a skilled worker depends on individual effort in education and on public resources, but educational risk still causes (income) inequality. We show that in a second-best setting, in which learning effort is not observable, improving the quality of education by public funding of the educational sector has a significant effect and that this increases efficiency in comparison to a pure (linear) income tax with income transfers from skilled to unskilled workers. Compared to a first-best solution, providing ex ante insurance significantly gains importance relative to traditional ex post redistribution, because it simultaneously alleviates moral hazard in education. These results are strengthened when a (distortionary) skill-specific tax can be implemented.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Schindler & Benjamin Weigert, 2011. "Shutting the Stable Door after the Horse Has Bolted? On Educational Risk and the Quality of Education," CESifo Working Paper Series 3436, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3436

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. da Costa, Carlos E. & Maestri, Lucas J., 2007. "The risk properties of human capital and the design of government policies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 695-713, April.
    2. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2003. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 948-964, June.
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    More about this item


    human capital investment; endogenous risk; learning effort; optimal taxation; public education;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General


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