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Intergenerational transfer of human capital and optimal education policy

  • CREMER, Helmuth
  • PESTIEAU, Pierre

This Paper studies the design of education policies in a setting of successive generations with heterogeneous individuals (high and low earning ability). Parents’ investment in education is motivated by warm-glow altruism and determines the probability that a child has high ability. Education policies consist of a subsidy on private educational investments and possibly of public education. We show that when an income tax is available, the subsidy on education should not depend on redistributive considerations. Instead, it is determined by two terms. First, a Pigouvian term that arises because under warm-glow altruism parents’ utility does not properly account for the impact of education on future generations. The second term captures a ‘merit good’ effect, which arises when the warm-glow term is not fully included in social welfare (possibility of laundering out). The two terms are of opposite sign and the optimal subsidy may be positive or negative. Finally, we derive conditions under which public education is welfare-improving and show that total crowding out of private expenditure (for one of the types) may be desirable.

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Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in its series CORE Discussion Papers RP with number -1876.

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Handle: RePEc:cor:louvrp:-1876
Note: In : Journal of Public Economic Theory, 8(4), 529-545, 2006
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  1. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
  2. Fernandez, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1996. "Income Distribution, Communities, and the Quality of Public Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 135-64, February.
  3. Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B, 1992. "Public versus Private Investment in Human Capital Endogenous Growth and Income Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 818-34, August.
  4. Gerhard Glomm & Michael Kaganovich, 2003. "Distributional Effects of Public Education in an Economy with Public Pensions," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(3), pages 917-937, 08.
  5. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1999. "Capital Income Taxation when Inherited wealth is not Observable," IDEI Working Papers 109, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised 2001.
  6. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz & Ladoux, Norbert, 1998. "Externalities and optimal taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 343-364, December.
  7. Gianni de Fraja, 2002. "The Design of Optimal Education Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 437-466.
  8. Benabou, R., 1999. "Tax and Education Policy in a Heterogeneous Agent Economy: What Levels of Redistribution Maximize Growth and Efficiency?," Working Papers 99-12, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  9. Azariadis, Costas & Drazen, Allan, 1990. "Threshold Externalities in Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 501-26, May.
  10. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  11. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  12. Drazen, Allan, 1978. "Government Debt, Human Capital, and Bequests in a Life-Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 505-16, June.
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