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Tax-Benefit Systems in Europe and the US: Between Equity and Efficiency

Author

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  • Bargain, Olivier

    (Université Montesquieu Bordeaux IV)

  • Dolls, Mathias

    (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

  • Neumann, Dirk

    (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie)

  • Peichl, Andreas

    (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

  • Siegloch, Sebastian

    (University of Cologne)

Abstract

Whether observed differences in redistributive policies across countries are the result of differences in social preferences or efficiency constraints is an important question that paves the debate about the optimality of welfare regimes. To shed new light on this question, we estimate labor supply elasticities on microdata and adopt an inverted optimal tax approach to characterize the redistributive preferences embodied in the welfare systems of 17 EU countries and the US. Implicit social welfare functions are broadly compatible with the fiction of an optimizing Paretian social planner. Some exceptions due to generous demogrant transfers are consistent with the ignorance of behavioral responses by some European governments and are partly corrected by recent policy developments. Heterogeneity in leisure-consumption preferences somewhat affect the international comparison in degrees of revealed inequality aversion, but differences in social preferences are significant only between broad groups of countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2011. "Tax-Benefit Systems in Europe and the US: Between Equity and Efficiency," IZA Discussion Papers 5440, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5440
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    4. Holly Sutherland & Francesco Figari, 2013. "EUROMOD: the European Union tax-benefit microsimulation model," International Journal of Microsimulation, International Microsimulation Association, vol. 1(6), pages 4-26.
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    6. Felix J. Bierbrauer & Pierre C. Boyer & Emanuel Hansen, 2023. "Pareto‐Improving Tax Reforms and the Earned Income Tax Credit," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 91(3), pages 1077-1103, May.
    7. Normann Lorenz & Dominik Sachs, 2012. "Optimal Participation Taxes and Efficient Transfer Phase-Out," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2012-37, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    8. Bönke, Timm & Eichfelder, Sebastian & Utz, Stephen, 2012. "Uneven treatment of family life? Horizontal equity in the U.S. tax and transfer system," Discussion Papers 2012/18, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    9. Lockwood, Benjamin B. & Weinzierl, Matthew, 2016. "Positive and normative judgments implicit in U.S. tax policy, and the costs of unequal growth and recessions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 30-47.
    10. Gordon, Roger H. & Cullen, Julie Berry, 2012. "Income redistribution in a Federal system of governments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1100-1109.
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    Keywords

    social preferences; redistribution; optimal income taxation; labor supply;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques

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