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Will the Real Excess Burden Please Stand Up? (Or, Seven Measures in Search of a Concept)

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  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Harvey S. Rosen

Abstract

It is well understood that a tax which distorts relative prices generates a welfare cost or "excess burden" in addition to any associated transfer of resources, but there remains considerable controversy and confusion with respect to procedures for measuring this excess burden. The purpose of this paper is to clarify matters concerning what is one of the most basic concepts in welfare economics. We describe and evaluate a number of alternative conceptual experiments which might lie behind an excess burden calculation, showing how these notions can be represented graphically and algebraically and how they can be approximated numerically.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach & Harvey S. Rosen, 1980. "Will the Real Excess Burden Please Stand Up? (Or, Seven Measures in Search of a Concept)," NBER Working Papers 0495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0495
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    1. Wales, T J & Woodland, A D, 1976. "Estimation of Household Utility Functions and Labor Supply Response," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 17(2), pages 397-410, June.
    2. Harvey S. Rosen, 1978. "The Measurement of Excess Burden with Explicit Utility Functions," NBER Chapters,in: Research in Taxation, pages 121-135 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Small, Kenneth A & Rosen, Harvey S, 1981. "Applied Welfare Economics with Discrete Choice Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(1), pages 105-130, January.
    4. Willig, Robert D, 1976. "Consumer's Surplus without Apology," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(4), pages 589-597, September.
    5. Kay, J. A., 1980. "The deadweight loss from a tax system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 111-119, February.
    6. Hause, John C, 1975. "The Theory of Welfare Cost Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1145-1182, December.
    7. Diamond, P. A. & McFadden, D. L., 1974. "Some uses of the expenditure function in public finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 3-21, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Don Fullerton, 1989. "If Labor is Inelastic, Are Taxes Still Distorting?," NBER Working Papers 2810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lawrence Lindsey, 1983. "Alternatives to the Current Maximum Tax on Earned Income," NBER Chapters,in: Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis, pages 83-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Driffill, E John & Rosen, Harvey S, 1983. "Taxation and Excess Burden: A Life Cycle Perspective," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(3), pages 671-683, October.
    4. Eissa, Nada & Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup, 2008. "Evaluation of four tax reforms in the United States: Labor supply and welfare effects for single mothers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 795-816, April.
    5. Jerry A. Hausman, 1980. "Income and Payroll Tax Policy and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 0610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Blinder, Alan S & Rosen, Harvey S, 1985. "Notches," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 736-747, September.
    7. Kevin J. Mumford, 2007. "The Optimal Tax Treatment of Families with Children," Discussion Papers 06-020, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    8. Alex Luiz Ferreira, 2007. "On the Transmission Mechanism of Monetary Constraints to the Real Side of the Economy," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(1), pages 43-54.
    9. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.

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