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Labour supply and taxes

Author

Listed:
  • Costas Meghir

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Yale University)

  • David Phillips

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Institute for Fiscal Studies)

Abstract

In this paper we provide an overview of the literature relating labour supply to taxes and welfare benefits with a focus on presenting the empirical consensus. We begin with a basic continuous hours model, where individuals have completely free choice over their hours of work. We then consider fixed costs of work, the complications introduced by the benefits system, dynamic aspects of labour supply and we place the analysis in the context of the family. The key conclusion of this work is that in order to estimate the impact of tax reform and be able to generalise results, a structural approach that takes account of many of these issues is desirable. We then discuss the 'new Tax Responsiveness' literature which uses the response of taxable income to the marginal tax rate as a summary statistic of the behavioural response to taxation. Underlying this approach is the unsatisfactory nature of using hours as a proxy for labour effort for those with high levels of autonomy on the job and who already work long hours, such as the self employed or senior executives. After discussing relevant theory we then provide a summary of empirical estimates and the methodology underlying the studies. Our conclusion is that hours of work are relatively inelastic for men, but are a little more responsive for married women and lone mothers. On the other hand, participation is quite sensitive to taxation and benefits for women. Within this paper we present new estimates form a discrete participation model for both married and single men based on the numerous reforms over the past two decades in the UK. We find that the participation of low education men is somewhat more responsive to incentives than previously thought. For men with high levels of education, participation is virtually unresponsive; here the literature on taxable income suggests that there may be significant welfare costs of taxation, although much of this seems to be a result of shifting income and consumption to non-taxable forms as opposed to actual reductions in work effort.

Suggested Citation

  • Costas Meghir & David Phillips, 2008. "Labour supply and taxes," IFS Working Papers W08/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:08/04
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard Blundell & Howard Reed & Thomas M. Stoker, 2003. "Interpreting Aggregate Wage Growth: The Role of Labor Market Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1114-1131, September.
    2. Zvi Eckstein & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1989. "Dynamic Labour Force Participation of Married Women and Endogenous Work Experience," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(3), pages 375-390.
    3. Manuel Arellano & Costas Meghir, 1992. "Female Labour Supply and On-the-Job Search: An Empirical Model Estimated Using Complementary Data Sets," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(3), pages 537-559.
    4. François Bourguignon & Thierry Magnac, 1990. "Labor Supply and Taxation in France," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(3), pages 358-389.
    5. V. Joseph Hotz, 2003. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 141-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. John F. Ermisch & Robert E. Wright, 1991. "Welfare Benefits and Lone Parents' Employment in Great Britain," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(3), pages 424-456.
    7. Burtless, Gary & Hausman, Jerry A, 1978. "The Effect of Taxation on Labor Supply: Evaluating the Gary Negative Income Tax Experiments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1103-1130, December.
    8. 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 403-422, July-Aug..
    9. Cogan, John F, 1981. "Fixed Costs and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 945-963, June.
    10. Agell, S.A. & Meghir, C., 1995. "Male Labour Supply in Sweden : Are Incentives Important?," Papers 12, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
    11. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1992. "Collective Labor Supply and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 437-467, June.
    12. Blundell, Richard & MaCurdy, Thomas & Meghir, Costas, 2007. "Labor Supply Models: Unobserved Heterogeneity, Nonparticipation and Dynamics," Handbook of Econometrics,in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 6, chapter 69 Elsevier.
    13. Blundell, Richard & Meghir, Costas & Neves, Pedro, 1993. "Labour supply and intertemporal substitution," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1-2), pages 137-160, September.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labour Supply; Income taxation; Welfare Benefits; Tax Credits; Incentive Effects;

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • 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

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