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Do More Equal Slices Shrink the Cake? An Empirical Investigation of Tax-Transfer Reform Proposals in Italy

A crucial issue in efficiency-equality evaluations of tax reforms resides in the possibility that the level as well as the distribution of welfare may change, where the household-specific measures of welfare capture the value of income as well as the value of leisure. A better-designed redistribution and income support system may not only foster equality but also improve the configuration of incentives and by this route contribute in its turn to efficiency. This paper presents an empirical analysis of the welfare effects for married couples of replacing the Italian tax system by three alternative hypothetical reforms: a flat tax, a negative income tax, and a work fare scheme. We employ a microeconometric model of household labour supply that represents partners’ simultaneous choices, allows for constraints in the choice of hours of work, and is sufficiently flexible to capture a large variety of supply responses. These features appear to be crucial in the evaluation of reform effects. The results suggest that there is scope for improving upon the current system under both the efficiency and the equality criterion. The benefits from the reforms, however, come from unexpected directions since the largest labour supply contribution to the increase in welfare come from poor and middle class households whereas rich households appear to be much less responsive to changes in the tax rates.The simulation results reveal that a crucial role in shaping the results is played by the relatively higher behavioural responsiveness of married women living in low and average income households.

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File URL: http://www.sv.uio.no/econ/english/research/unpublished-works/working-papers/pdf-files/2003/Memo-37-2003.pdf
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Paper provided by Oslo University, Department of Economics in its series Memorandum with number 37/2003.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: 01 Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Population Economics, 2004, pages 767-785.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2003_037
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway
Phone: 22 85 51 27
Fax: 22 85 50 35
Web page: http://www.oekonomi.uio.no/indexe.html
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  1. Bourguignon, F. & O'Donoghue, C. & Sastre-Descals, J. & Spadara, A. & Utili, F., 1997. "Eur3: A Prototype European Tax-Benefit Model," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 9723, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  2. Arthur van Soest, 1995. "Structural Models of Family Labor Supply: A Discrete Choice Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 63-88.
  3. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino & Steinar Strøm & Tom Wennemo, 2005. "Joint Labour Supply of Married Couples: Efficiency and Distribution Effects of Tax and Labour Market Reforms," Labor and Demography 0501004, EconWPA.
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  5. Fortin, Bernard & Truchon, Michel & Beausejour, Louis, 1993. "On reforming the welfare system : Workfare meets the negative income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 119-151, June.
  6. William T. Dickens & Shelly J. Lundberg, 1985. "Hours Restrictions and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 1638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A., 1980. "A single-parameter generalization of the Gini indices of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 67-86, February.
  8. Saez, Emmanuel, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 205-29, January.
  9. King, Mervyn A., 1983. "Welfare analysis of tax reforms using household data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 183-214, July.
  10. Dagsvik, John K, 1994. "Discrete and Continuous Choice, Max-Stable Processes, and Independence from Irrelevant Attributes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1179-1205, September.
  11. Aaberge, Rolf, 2001. "Axiomatic Characterization of the Gini Coefficient and Lorenz Curve Orderings," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 101(1), pages 115-132, November.
  12. Aaberge, Rolf & Colombino, Ugo & Strom, Steinar, 1999. "Labour Supply in Italy: An Empirical Analysis of Joint Household Decisions, with Taxes and Quantity Constraints," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(4), pages 403-22, July-Aug..
  13. Yaari, Menahem E., 1988. "A controversial proposal concerning inequality measurement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 381-397, April.
  14. Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A., 1983. "Ethically flexible gini indices for income distributions in the continuum," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 353-358, April.
  15. Aaberge, Rolf & Dagsvik, John K & Strom, Steinar, 1995. " Labor Supply Responses and Welfare Effects of Tax Reforms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 635-59, December.
  16. Rolf Aaberge, 2000. "Characterizations of Lorenz curves and income distributions," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 639-653.
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