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

Optimal taxation and the skill premium

  • Angelopoulos, Konstantinos
  • Malley, James
  • Philippopoulos, Apostolis

The stylized facts suggest a negative relationship between tax progressivity and the skill premium from the early 1960s until the early 1990s, and a positive one thereafter. They also generally imply rising tax progressivity, except for the 1980s. In this paper, we ask whether optimal tax policy is consistent with these observations, taking into account the demographic and technological factors that have also affected the skill premium. To this end, we construct a dynamic general equilibrium model in which the skill premium and the progressivity of the tax system are endogenously determined, with the latter being optimally chosen by a benevolent government. We find that optimal policy delivers both a progressive tax system and model predictions which are generally consistent, except for the 1980s, with the stylized facts relating to the skill premium and progressivity. To capture the patterns in the data over the 1980s requires that we adopt a government policy which is biased towards the interests of skilled agents. Thus, in addition to demographic and technological factors, changes in the preferences of policy-makers appear to be a potentially important factor in determining the evolution of the observed skill premium.

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 Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2012-03.

in new window

Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:306
Contact details of provider: Postal:
31 Buccleuch Place, EH8 9JT, Edinburgh

Phone: +44(0)1316508361
Fax: +44(0)1316504514
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. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1991. "The Politics of 1992: Fiscal Policy and European Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 501, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Katz, L.F. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1580, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Teresa Garcia-Milà & Albert Marcet & Eva Ventura, 1995. "Supply side interventions and redistribution," Economics Working Papers 115, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "How progressive is the US federal tax system? A historical and international perspective," Post-Print halshs-00754244, HAL.
  5. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
  6. Pierpaolo Benigno, 2009. "Price Stability with Imperfect Financial Integration," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 41(s1), pages 121-149, 02.
  7. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
  8. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 1997. "Capital-skill complementarity and inequality: a macroeconomic analysis," Staff Report 239, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Representative democracy and capital taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 53-70, September.
  10. Peter Diamond & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 165-90, Fall.
  11. Jason G. Cummins & Giovanni L. Violante, 2002. "Investment-specific technical change in the US (1947-2000): measurement and macroeconomics consequences," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-10, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Juan C. Conesa & Dirk Krueger, 2004. "Taxing Capital: Not a Bad Idea After All," 2004 Meeting Papers 403, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Kenneth L. Judd, 1982. "Redistributive Taxation in a Simple Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 572, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  14. Stokey, Nancy L, 1996. "Free Trade, Factor Returns, and Factor Accumulation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(4), pages 421-47, December.
  15. Guido Cozzi & Giammario Impullitti, 2010. "Government Spending Composition, Technical Change, and Wage Inequality," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1325-1358, December.
  16. N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew C. Weinzierl & Danny Yagan, 2009. "Optimal Taxation in Theory and Practice," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-140, Harvard Business School.
  17. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  18. Mueller,Dennis C., 2003. "Public Choice III," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521894753, November.
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:edn:sirdps:306. 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: (Gina Reddie)

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.