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Is it fair to "make work pay"??

  • Roland Iwan Luttens
  • Erwon Ooghe

The design of the income transfer program for the lower incomes is a hot issue in current public policy debate. Should we stick to a generous welfare state with a sizeable basic income, but high marginal tax rates for the lower incomes and thus little incentives to work? Or, should we “make work pay” by subsidizing the work of low earners, but possibly at the cost of a smaller safety net? We think it is difficult to answer this question without making clear what individuals are (held) responsible for and what not. First, we present a new fair allocation, coined a Pareto Efficient and Shared resources Equivalent allocation (PESE), which compensates for different productive skills, but not for different tastes for working. We also characterize a fair social ordering, which rationalizes the PESE allocation. Second, we illustrate the optimal second-best allocation in a discrete Stiglitz (1982, 1987) economy. The question whether we should have regressive or progressive taxes for the low earners crucially depends on whether the low-skilled have a strictly positive or zero skill. Third, we simulate fair taxes for a sample of Belgian singles. Our simulation results suggest that “making work pay” policies can be optimal, according to our fairness criterion, but only in the unreasonable case in which most of the unemployed are not willing to work.

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Paper provided by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën in its series Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers with number ces0410.

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Date of creation: Mar 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ete:ceswps:ces0410
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  1. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1987. "Pareto Efficient and Optimal Taxation and the New New Welfare Economics," NBER Working Papers 2189, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive Versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," NBER Working Papers 7708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 7628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. John Roemer, 2003. "To What Extent Do Fiscal Regimes Equalize Opportunities For Income Acquisition Among Citizens," Working Papers 03, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  5. Pazner, Elisha A & Schmeidler, David, 1978. "Egalitarian Equivalent Allocations: A New Concept of Economic Equity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 671-87, November.
  6. Diamond, P., 1980. "Income taxation with fixed hours of work," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 101-110, February.
  7. 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).
  8. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  9. Marc Fleurbaey & Fran�ois Maniquet, 2006. "Fair Income Tax," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 55-83.
  10. Diamond, P., 1994. "Optimal Income Taxation: An Exemple with a U-Shaped Pattern of Optimal Marginal Tax Rates," Working papers 94-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Self-selection and Pareto efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 213-240, March.
  12. Tungodden, Bertil, 2000. "Egalitarianism: Is Leximin the Only Option?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(02), pages 229-245, October.
  13. Luigi, Bernardi, 2002. "Tax systems and tax reforms in Europe: Italy," MPRA Paper 18045, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  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. Maniquet, F., 1996. "An Equal Right Solution to the Compensation-Responsability Dilemma," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 335.96, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  16. repec:ese:iserwp:2000-19 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  18. M. Fleurbaey & F. Maniquet, 2000. "Fair Social Orderings With Unequal Production Skills," THEMA Working Papers 2000-17, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  19. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059, March.
  20. Ebert, Udo, 1992. "A reexamination of the optimal nonlinear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 47-73, October.
  21. Fleurbaey, Marc & Maniquet, Francois, 1996. "Fair allocation with unequal production skills: The No Envy approach to compensation," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 71-93, August.
  22. Schokkaert, Erik & Van de gaer, Dirk & Vandenbroucke, Frank & Luttens, Roland Iwan, 2004. "Responsibility sensitive egalitarianism and optimal linear income taxation," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 151-182, September.
  23. Heckman, James J, 1993. "What Has Been Learned about Labor Supply in the Past Twenty Years?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 116-21, May.
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