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Adaptation, Anticipation-Bias and Optimal Income Taxation


  • Thomas Aronsson
  • Ronnie Schöb


Adaptation is omnipresent but people systematically fail to correctly anticipate the degree to which they adapt. This leads individuals to make inefficient intertemporal decisions. This paper concerns optimal income taxation to correct for such anticipation-biases in a framework where consumers adapt to earlier consumption levels through a habit-formation process. The analysis is based on a general equilibrium OLG model with endogenous labor supply and savings where each consumer lives for three periods. Our results show how a paternalistic government may correct for the effects of anticipation-bias through a combination of time-variant marginal labor income taxes and savings subsidies. Furthermore, the optimal policy mix remains the same, irrespective of whether consumers commit to their original life-time plan for work hours and savings decided upon in the first period of life or re-optimize later on when realizing the failure to adapt.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Aronsson & Ronnie Schöb, 2012. "Adaptation, Anticipation-Bias and Optimal Income Taxation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3840, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3840

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jody Overland & Christopher D. Carroll & David N. Weil, 2000. "Saving and Growth with Habit Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 341-355, June.
    2. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    3. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
    4. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059.
    5. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
    6. Wendner, Ronald & Goulder, Lawrence H., 2008. "Status Effects, Public Goods Provision, and the Excess Burden," MPRA Paper 8260, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Edgeworth, Francis Ysidro, 1881. "Mathematical Psychics," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number edgeworth1881.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schöb, Ronnie & Aronsson, Thomas, 2014. "Climate Change and Psychological Adaptation: A Behavioral Environmental Economics Approach," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100287, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item


    optimal taxation; adaptation; habit-formation; anticipation-bias; paternalism;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation


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