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Is there a Case for Public Provision of Private Goods if Preferences are Heterogeneous? An Example with Day Care

  • Sören Blomquist
  • Vidar Christiansen

A strong case for public provision of certain private goods has been established for an economy in which individuals have homogeneous preferences but differ in skill levels. There has been a critique of this model/mechanism arguing that heterogeneous preferences at a given skill level would invalidate the mechanism, implying that public provision of private goods is merely of theoretical, not of practical interest. The argument is that if the public provision level is set so as to fit the low skill person with a high preference for the publicly provided good, the low skill person with a low preference for the good comes out worse than in a system without public provision. In this paper we take this critique seriously and investigate if a public provision scheme can be constructed so that we obtain a strict Pareto improvement when going from a pure tax/transfer system to the public provision scheme even if preferences are heterogeneous. We find that heterogeneous preferences do not invalidate the benefits of publicly provided private goods. We also characterise the optimum tax and public provision policy.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 938.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_938
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  1. Bossert, W., 1993. "Redistribution Mechanisms Based on Individual Characteristics," Working Papers 9307, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics.
  2. Katherine Cuff, 1998. "Optimality of Workfare with Heterogeneous Preferences," Working Papers 968, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  3. Blomquist, Suren & Christiansen, Vidar, 1995. " Public Provision of Private Goods as a Redistributive Device in an Optimum Income Tax Model," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 547-67, December.
  4. BOADWAY, R. & MARCHAND, M. & PESTIEAU, P. & del MAR RACIONERO, M., 2001. "Optimal redistribution with heterogeneous preferences for leisure," CORE Discussion Papers 2001025, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  5. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1981. "Self-Selection and Pareto Efficient Taxation," NBER Working Papers 0632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nichols, Albert L & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1982. "Targeting Transfers through Restrictions on Recipients," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 372-77, May.
  7. Allingham, M. G., 1975. "Towards an ability tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 361-376, November.
  8. Boadway, Robin & Marchand, Maurice, 1995. "The Use of Public Expenditures for Redistributive Purposes," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(1), pages 45-59, January.
  9. Blomquist, S. & Christiansen, V., 1995. "Topping Up of Opting Out? The Optimal Design of Public Provision Schemes," Papers 1995-13, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  10. Boadway, Robin & Marchand, Maurice & Sato, Motohiro, 1998. " Subsidies versus Public Provision of Private Goods as Instruments for Redistribution," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(3), pages 545-64, September.
  11. Blomquist, Soren & Christiansen, Vidar, 1999. "The political economy of publicly provided private goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 31-54, July.
  12. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1996. "Public Provision of Private Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 57-84, February.
  13. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1991. "Public Provision of Private Goods and the Redistribution of Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 979-84, September.
  14. Boadway, Robin & Keen, Michael, 2000. "Redistribution," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 677-789 Elsevier.
  15. Gouveia, Miguel, 1997. " Majority Rule and the Public Provision of a Private Good," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 93(3-4), pages 221-44, December.
  16. Stern, Nicholas, 1982. "Optimum taxation with errors in administration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 181-211, March.
  17. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1997. "In-kind transfers, self-selection and optimal tax policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 97-114, January.
  18. Blomquist, Sören & Christiansen, Vidar, 1997. "Price Subsidies versus Public Provision," Working Paper Series 1997:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  19. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1988. "Cash versus Kind, Self-selection, and Efficient Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 691-700, September.
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