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Tax policy design in the presence of social preferences: some experimental evidence

  • Lucy F. Ackert
  • Jorge Martinez-Vazquez
  • Mark Rider

This paper reports the results of experiments designed to examine whether a taste for fairness affects people’s preferred tax structure. Building on the Fehr and Schmidt (1999) model, we devise a simple test for the presence of social preferences in voting for alternative tax structures. The experimental results show that individuals demonstrate concern for their own payoff and inequality aversion in choosing among alternative tax structures. However, concern for redistribution decreases when it leads to increasing deadweight losses. Our findings have important implications for the design of optimal tax theory.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2004-33.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2004-33
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  1. Andreoni, J. & Erard, B. & Feinstein, J., 1996. "Tax Compliance," Working papers 9610r, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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  3. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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  6. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  8. McFadden, Daniel L., 1984. "Econometric analysis of qualitative response models," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 24, pages 1395-1457 Elsevier.
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  11. Colin F. Camerer, 1997. "Progress in Behavioral Game Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 167-188, Fall.
  12. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Alice M. Isen, 2000. "The Effect of Affect on Economic and Strategic Decision Making," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1136, Econometric Society.
  13. Guth, Werner & Tietz, Reinhard, 1990. "Ultimatum bargaining behavior : A survey and comparison of experimental results," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 417-449, September.
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  15. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  16. Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Mark Rider, 1996. "A Revelation Approach To Optimal Taxation," Public Finance Review, , vol. 24(4), pages 439-463, October.
  17. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  18. Bagnoli, Mark & McKee, Michael, 1991. "Voluntary Contribution Games: Efficient Private Provision of Public Goods," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(2), pages 351-66, April.
  19. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  20. Lucy F. Ackert & Bryan K. Church & Richard Deaves, 2003. "Emotion and financial markets," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q2, pages 33-41.
  21. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
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