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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. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, 09.
  2. 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.
  3. Ravi Kanbur & Michael Keen & Matti Tuomala, 1990. "Optimal Non-Linear Income Taxation for the Alleviation of Income Poverty," Working Papers 799, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  4. repec:oup:restud:v:68:y:2001:i:1:p:205-29 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
  6. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers 232, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  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. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059, July.
  9. Alesina, Alberto & Ichino, Andrea & Karabarbounis, Loukas, 2007. "Gender Based Taxation and the Division of Family Chores," IZA Discussion Papers 3233, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. repec:oup:restud:v:38:y:1971:i:114:p:175-208 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. 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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