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Taxation and the Earnings of Husbands and Wives: Evidence from Sweden

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  • M Gelber, Alexander

    () (The Wharton School)

Abstract

This paper examines the response of husbands' and wives' earnings to a tax reform in which husbands' and wives' tax rates changed independently, allowing me to examine the effect of both spouses' incentives on each spouse's behavior. I compare the results to those of more simplified econometric models that are used in the typical setting in which such independent variation is not available. Using administrative panel data on approximately 11% of the married Swedish population, I analyze the impact of the large Swedish tax reform of 1990-1. I find that in response to a compensated fall in one spouse's tax rate, that spouse's earned income rises, and the other spouse's earned income also rises. I test and reject a set of models in which the family maximizes a single utility function. A standard econometric specification, in which one spouse reacts to the other spouse's income as if it were unearned income, yields biased coefficient estimates. Uncompensated elasticities of earned income with respect to the fraction of income kept after taxes are over-estimated by a factor of more than three, and income effects are of the wrong sign. A second common specification, in which overall family income is related to the family's tax rate and income, also yields substantially over-estimated own compensated and uncompensated elasticities. Standard econometric approaches may substantially mis-estimate earnings responses to taxation.

Suggested Citation

  • M Gelber, Alexander, 2011. "Taxation and the Earnings of Husbands and Wives: Evidence from Sweden," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2012:4, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:uufswp:2012_004
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    Cited by:

    1. Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Matthieu Lequien & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2017. "Tax Simplicity and Heterogeneous Learning," NBER Working Papers 24049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Anderson, D. Mark & Crost, Benjamin & Rees, Daniel I., 2014. "Wet Laws, Drinking Establishments, and Violent Crime," IZA Discussion Papers 8718, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Olsson, Martin & Skogman Thoursie, Peter, 2015. "Sickness insurance and spousal labour supply," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 41-54.
    4. Gavrilova, Evelina & Zoutman, Floris T. & Hopland, Arnt O., 2017. "How to Use One Instrument to Identify Two Elasticities," Discussion Papers 2017/2, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Business and Management Science.
    5. Neisser, Carina, 2017. "The elasticity of taxable income: A meta-regression analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-032, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    6. Creedy, John & Gemmell, Norman, 2018. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income of Individuals in Couples," Working Paper Series 7615, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.
    7. Spencer Bastani & Jacob Lundberg, 2017. "Political preferences for redistribution in Sweden," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 15(4), pages 345-367, December.
    8. Liang, Che-Yuan, 2018. "Taxes and Household Labor Supply: Estimating Distributional Effects of Nonlinear Prices on Multidimensional Choice," Working Paper Series 2018:2, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    9. Barua, Rashmi, 2014. "Intertemporal substitution in maternal labor supply: Evidence using state school entrance age laws," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 129-140.
    10. repec:bla:kyklos:v:70:y:2017:i:2:p:220-255 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Dominique Goux & Eric Maurin & Barbara Petrongolo, 2014. "Worktime Regulations and Spousal Labor Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 252-276, January.
    12. Thoresen, Thor O. & Vattø, Trine E., 2015. "Validation of the discrete choice labor supply model by methods of the new tax responsiveness literature," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 38-53.
    13. Weber, Caroline E., 2014. "Toward obtaining a consistent estimate of the elasticity of taxable income using difference-in-differences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 90-103.
    14. KODAMA Naomi & YOKOYAMA Izumi, 2017. "Labor Market Impact of Labor Cost Increase without Productivity Gain: A natural experiment from the 2003 social insurance premium reform in Japan," Discussion papers 17093, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    15. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10797-016-9427-y is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Lundberg, Jacob, 2017. "Analyzing tax reforms using the Swedish Labour Income Microsimulation Model," Working Paper Series 2017:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    taxation; earnings; labor supply; families; spouses; unitary model;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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