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Optimal Automatic Stabilizers

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  • McKay, Alisdair
  • Reis, Ricardo

Abstract

Should the generosity of unemployment benefits and the progressivity of income taxes de- pend on the presence of business cycles? This paper proposes a tractable model where there is a role for social insurance against uninsurable shocks to income and unemployment, as well as inefficient business cycles driven by aggregate shocks through matching frictions and nominal rigidities. We derive an augmented Baily-Chetty formula showing that the optimal generosity and progressivity depend on a macroeconomic stabilization term. Using a series of analytical examples, we show that this term typically pushes for an increase in generosity and progressivity as long as slack is more responsive to social programs in recessions. A calibration to the U.S. economy shows that taking concerns for macroeconomic stabilization into account raises the optimal unemployment benefits replacement rate by 13 percentage points but has a negligible impact on the optimal progressivity of the income tax. More generally, the role of social insurance programs as automatic stabilizers affects their optimal design.

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  • McKay, Alisdair & Reis, Ricardo, 2016. "Optimal Automatic Stabilizers," CEPR Discussion Papers 11337, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11337
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    Cited by:

    1. Philipp Engler & Wolfgang Strehl, 2016. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Progressive Taxes and Welfare," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1626, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Juergen Jung & Chung Tran, 2017. "Optimal Progressive Income Taxation in a Bewley-Grossman Framework," Working Papers 2017-01, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2018.
    3. repec:eee:moneco:v:90:y:2017:i:c:p:142-157 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Olivier J. Blanchard & Lawrence H. Summers, 2017. "Rethinking Stabilization Policy: Evolution or Revolution?," NBER Working Papers 24179, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Counter-cyclical fiscal policy; distortionary taxes.; redistribution;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General

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