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Growth effects of progressive taxes

  • Wenli Li
  • Pierre-Daniel Sarte

The authors study the effects of progressive taxes in conventional endogenous growth models augmented to include heterogeneous households. In contrast to representative agent models with flat-rate taxes, this framework allows us to distinguish between marginal tax rates and the empirical proxies that are typically used for these rates such as the share of tax revenue, or government expenditures, in GDP. The analysis then illustrates how the endogenous nature of these proxy variables causes them to be weakly correlated, or even increase, with economic growth. This study, therefore, helps explain why cross-country regressions have mostly failed to uncover the distortional growth effects of taxes. In fact, while past U.S. tax reforms appear to have contributed only small increases in per capita GDP growth, the authors' analysis nevertheless suggests that differences in tax codes across countries explain a two and a half percent variation in cross-sectional growth rates. Finally, the authors show that progressivity also introduces significant lags in the effects of tax changes on output growth.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in its series Working Papers with number 03-15.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:03-15
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  1. Sala-I-Martin, X. & Barro, R.J., 1991. "Public Finance in Models of Economic Growth," Papers 640, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  2. Barro, Robert J., 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogeneous Growth," Scholarly Articles 3451296, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Becker, Robert A, 1980. "On the Long-Run Steady State in a Simple Dynamic Model of Equilibrium with Heterogeneous Households," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 375-82, September.
  4. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-84, August.
  5. David Aschauer, 1988. "Is public expenditure productive?," Staff Memoranda 88-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  6. Charles T. Carlstrom & David Altig, 1999. "Marginal Tax Rates and Income Inequality in a Life-Cycle Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1197-1215, December.
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