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The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution

  • N. Gregory Mankiw

    ()

    (Harvard University, Economic Department)

  • Matthew C. Weinzierl

    ()

    (Harvard Business School, Business, Government and the International Economy Unit)

Should the income tax include a credit for short taxpayers and a surcharge for tall ones? The standard Utilitarian framework for tax analysis answers this question in the affirmative. Moreover, a plausible parameterization using data on height and wages implies a substantial height tax: a tall person earning $50,000 should pay $4,500 more in tax than a short person. One interpretation is that personal attributes correlated with wages should be considered more widely for determining taxes. Alternatively, if policies such as a height tax are rejected, then the standard Utilitarian framework must fail to capture intuitive notions of distributive justice.

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 09-139.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-139
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  1. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 12466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kanbur, Ravi & Keen, Michael & Toumala, Matti, 1991. "Optimal non-linear income taxation for the alleviation of income poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 616, The World Bank.
  3. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2003. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-036, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. Viard, Alan D, 2001. " Optimal Categorical Transfer Payments: The Welfare Economics of Limited Lump-Sum Redistribution," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 3(4), pages 483-500.
  5. Edward C. Prescott, 2004. "Why do Americans work so much more than Europeans?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Jul, pages 2-13.
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  7. Stefania Albanesi & Christopher Sleet, 2004. "Dynamic optimal taxation with private information," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 140, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Alberto Alesina & Andrea Ichino & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2007. "Gender Based Taxation and the Division of Family Chores," NBER Working Papers 13638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Narayana Kocherlakota, 2004. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000729, UCLA Department of Economics.
  10. Victor R. Fuchs & Alan B. Krueger & James M. Poterba, 1998. "Economists' Views about Parameters, Values, and Policies: Survey Results in Labor and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1387-1425, September.
  11. Alan J. Auerbach & Kevin A. Hassett, 1999. "A New Measure of Horizontal Equity," NBER Working Papers 7035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Alan D. Viard, 2001. "Some Results on the Comparative Statics of Optimal Categorical Transfer Payments," Public Finance Review, , vol. 29(2), pages 148-180, March.
  13. Louis Kaplow, 2007. "Optimal income transfers," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 295-325, June.
  14. Kevin A. Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard & Alan J. Auerbach & Robert J. Barro & N. Gregory Mankiw & Alan S. Blinder & Jon M. Bakija & Louis Kaplow & Edmund S. Phelps & John E. Roemer & Roger H. Gordon & Ma, 2001. "Inequality and Tax Policy," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 53290, April.
  15. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
  16. Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2008. "Labor Supply: Are the Income and Substitution Effects Both Large or Both Small?," NBER Working Papers 14208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Rogerson, William P, 1985. "Repeated Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 69-76, January.
  18. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  19. Immonen, Ritva, et al, 1998. "Tagging and Taxing: The Optimal Use of Categorical and Income Information in Designing Tax/Transfer Schemes," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(258), pages 179-92, May.
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