IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Tax-Benefit Systems in Europe and the US: Between Equity and Efficiency

  • Olivier Bargain
  • Mathias Dolls
  • Dirk Neumann
  • Andreas Peichl
  • Sebastian Siegloch

Whether observed differences in redistributive policies across countries are the result of differences in social preferences or efficiency constraints is an important question that paves the debate about the optimality of welfare regimes. To shed new light on this question, we estimate labor supply elasticities on microdata and adopt an inverted optimal tax approach to characterize the redistributive preferences embodied in the welfare systems of 17 EU countries and the US. Implicit social welfare functions are broadly compatible with the fiction of an optimizing Paretian social planner. Some exceptions due to generous demogrant transfers are consistent with the ignorance of behavioral responses by some European governments and are partly corrected by recent policy developments. Heterogeneity in leisure-consumption preferences somewhat affect the international comparison in degrees of revealed inequality aversion, but differences in social preferences are significant only between broad groups of countries.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3534.

in new window

Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3534
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Poschingerstrasse 5, 81679 Munich

Phone: +49 (89) 9224-0
Fax: +49 (89) 985369
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Heim, Bradley T. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2004. "Work costs and nonconvex preferences in the estimation of labor supply models," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(11), pages 2323-2338, September.
  2. Immervoll, Herwig & Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Saez, Emmanuel, 2005. "Welfare Reform in European Countries: A Microsimulation Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 1810, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Kleven, Henrik & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Saez, Emmanuel, 2006. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," CEPR Discussion Papers 5978, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. John Creedy & Guyonne Kalb & Rosanna Scutella, 2003. "Discrete Hours Labour Supply Modelling: Specification, Estimation and Simulation," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2003n21, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  5. Diamond, P., 1994. "Optimal Income Taxation: An Exemple with a U-Shaped Pattern of Optimal Marginal Tax Rates," Working papers 94-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Robert A. Moffitt & John Karl Scholz, 2009. "Trends in the Level and Distribution of Income Support," NBER Working Papers 15488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Senik, Claudia, 2006. "Ambition and Jealousy: Income Interactions in the "Old" Europe versus the "New" Europe and the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 2083, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Spadaro, Amedeo, 2008. "Optimal taxation, social contract and the four worlds of welfare capitalism," EUROMOD Working Papers EM10/08, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  9. André DECOSTER & Peter HAAN, 2010. "Empirical welfare analysis in random utility models of labour supply," Working Papers Department of Economics ces10.30, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
  10. Bargain, Olivier & Orsini, Kristian & Peichl, Andreas, 2011. "Labor supply elasticities in Europe and the US," EUROMOD Working Papers EM1/11, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  11. Sutherland, Holly, 2001. "EUROMOD: an integrated European benefit-tax model: final report," EUROMOD Working Papers EM9/01, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  12. Immervoll, Herwig & Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup & Verdelin, Nicolaj, 2008. "An evaluation of the tax-transfer treatment of married couples in European countries," EUROMOD Working Papers EM7/08, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  13. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Julian McCrae & Costas Meghir, 2000. "The labour market impact of the working families’ tax credit," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(1), pages 75-103, March.
  14. Corneo, Giacomo & Grüner, Hans Peter, 2001. "Individual Preferences for Political Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2694, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Angeletos, George-Marios & Alesina, Alberto, 2005. "Fairness and Redistribution," Scholarly Articles 4553009, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. James Banks & Richard Disney & Alan Duncan & John Van Reenen, 2005. "The Internationalisation of Public Welfare Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(502), pages C62-C81, 03.
  17. Isaksson, Ann-Sofie & Lindskog, Annika, 2009. "Preferences for redistribution--A country comparison of fairness judgements," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 884-902, December.
  18. Alberto F. Alesina & Paola Giuliano, 2009. "Preferences for Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 14825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114.
  20. Herwig Immervoll, 2004. "Average and Marginal Effective Tax Rates Facing Workers in the EU: A Micro-Level Analysis of Levels, Distributions and Driving Factors," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 19, OECD Publishing.
  21. Michiel Evers & Ruud Mooij & Daniel Vuuren, 2008. "The Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply: A Synthesis of Empirical Estimates," De Economist, Springer, vol. 156(1), pages 25-43, March.
  22. Elena Stancanelli, 2007. "Evaluating the Impact of the French tax credit on the employment rate of women," Sciences Po publications N°2007-33, Sciences Po.
  23. Viktor Steiner & Katharina Wrohlich, 2005. "Work Incentives and Labor Supply Effects of the ‘Mini-Jobs Reform’ in Germany," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 91-116, 03.
  24. Irena Grosfeld & Claudia Senik, 2010. "The emerging aversion to inequality," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 18(1), pages 1-26, 01.
  25. Bargain, Olivier & Doorley, Karina, 2011. "Caught in the trap? Welfare's disincentive and the labor supply of single men," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1096-1110.
  26. Vincenzo Atella & Jay S. Coggins & Federico Perali, 2004. "Aversion to Inequality in Italy and its Determinants," CEIS Research Paper 56, Tor Vergata University, CEIS.
  27. Peter Haan & Katharina Wrohlich, 2010. "Optimal Taxation: The Design of Child-Related Cash and In-Kind Benefits," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 11, pages 278-301, 08.
  28. 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.
  29. Eichhorst, Werner & Konle-Seidl, Regina, 2005. "The interaction of labor market regulation and labor market policies in welfare state reform," IAB Discussion Paper 200519, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
  30. Kristian Orsini, 2007. "Is Belgium "Making Work Pay" ?," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 50(2), pages 193-220.
  31. Heckman, James J, 1993. "What Has Been Learned about Labor Supply in the Past Twenty Years?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 116-21, May.
  32. Guy Laroque, 2005. "Income Maintenance and Labor Force Participation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 341-376, 03.
  33. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Introduction to "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 1-14 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Corneo, Giacomo & Fong, Christina M., 2008. "What's the monetary value of distributive justice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 289-308, February.
  35. André DECOSTER & Erik SHCOKKAERT, 1989. "Equity and efficiency of a reform of Belgian indirect taxes," Discussion Papers (REL - Recherches Economiques de Louvain) 1989023, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  36. Helene Dearing & Helmut Hofer & Christine Lietz & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer & Katharina Wrohlich, 2007. "Why Are Mothers Working Longer Hours in Austria than in Germany?: A Comparative Micro Simulation Analysis," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 695, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  37. Olivier Bargain & Marco Caliendo & Peter Haan & Kristian Orsini, 2010. "“Making work pay” in a rationed labor market," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 323-351, January.
  38. Tim Callan & Arthur van Soest & John R. Walsh, 2009. "Tax Structure and Female Labour Supply: Evidence from Ireland," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(1), pages 1-35, 03.
  39. François Bourguignon & Amadéo Spadaro, 2005. "Tax-benefit revealed social preferences," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590779, HAL.
  40. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  41. Immervoll, Herwig, 2007. "Minimum Wages, Minimum Labour Costs and the Tax Treatment of Low-Wage Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 2555, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  42. van Soest, A.H.O. & Das, J.W.M., 2000. "Family Labor Supply and Proposed Tax Reforms in the Netherlands," Discussion Paper 2000-20, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  43. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moff03-1, September.
  44. Williamson Hoyne, Hilary, 1997. "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 89-117, August.
  45. Eissa, Nada & Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 2004. "Taxes and the labor market participation of married couples: the earned income tax credit," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1931-1958, August.
  46. Samuel Bentolila & Andrea Ichino, 2008. "Unemployment and consumption near and far away from the Mediterranean," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 21(2), pages 255-280, April.
  47. Ravi Kanbur & Jukka Pirttilä & Matti Tuomala, 2004. "Non-Welfarist Optimal Taxation and Behavioral Public Economics," Working Papers 0433, University of Tampere, School of Management, Economics.
  48. Boone, Jan & Bovenberg, A Lans, 2002. "The Optimal Taxation of Unskilled Labour with Job Search and Social Assistance," CEPR Discussion Papers 3446, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  49. M. Weeks, 2003. "Discrete choice methods with simulation, Kenneth E. Train, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-521-81696-3, pp. 334," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 379-383.
  50. Arthur van Soest, 1995. "Structural Models of Family Labor Supply: A Discrete Choice Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 63-88.
  51. Train,Kenneth E., 2009. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521747387, September.
  52. Hilary Hoynes, 1993. "Welfare Transfers in Two-Parent Families: Labor Supply and Welfare Participation Under AFDC-UP," NBER Working Papers 4407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  53. Viktor Steiner & Katharina Wrohlich, 2004. "Work Incentives and Labor Supply Effects of the 'Mini-Jobs Reform' in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 438, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  54. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  55. Richard Blundell & Mike Brewer & Peter Haan & Andrew Shephard, 2009. "Optimal Income Taxation of Lone Mothers: An Empirical Comparison of the UK and Germany," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages F101-F121, 02.
  56. Blundell, Richard & Shephard, Andrew, 2011. "Employment, Hours of Work and the Optimal Taxation of Low Income Families," IZA Discussion Papers 5745, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  57. Olivier Bargain & Amedeo Spadaro, 2008. "Optimal taxation, social contract and the four worlds of welfare capitalism," Working Papers 200816, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  58. John Muellbauer & Justin van de Ven, 2004. "Estimating Equivalence Scales for Tax and Benefits Systems," Economics Papers 2004-W06, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  59. Peter Lambert & Xavier Ramos, 1997. "Horizontal Inequity and Vertical Redistribution," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 4(1), pages 25-37, January.
  60. Bradley T. Heim, 2009. "Structural Estimation of Family Labor Supply with Taxes: Estimating a Continuous Hours Model Using a Direct Utility Specification," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
  61. Grosfeld, Irena & Senik, Claudia, 2010. "The emerging aversion to inequality - Evidence from subjective data," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1006, CEPREMAP.
  62. Peter Haan & Viktor Steiner, 2005. "Labor Market Effects of the German Tax Reform 2000," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 472, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  63. Euwals, Rob & van Soest, Arthur, 1999. "Desired and actual labour supply of unmarried men and women in the Netherlands," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 95-118, March.
  64. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  65. Diamond, P., 1980. "Income taxation with fixed hours of work," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 101-110, February.
  66. Laurent Simula & Alain Trannoy, 2006. "Optimal Linear Income Tax when Agents Vote with their Feet," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 62(3), pages 393-415, September.
  67. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:63:y:2009:i:1:p:146 is not listed on IDEAS
  68. Chone, Philippe & Laroque, Guy, 2005. "Optimal incentives for labor force participation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 395-425, February.
  69. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1995. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 5158, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  70. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3534. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Klaus Wohlrabe)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.