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Inequality, Social Discounting and Estate Taxation

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  • Emmanuel Farhi
  • Ivan Werning

Abstract

To what degree should societies allow inequality to be inherited? What role should estate taxation play in shaping the intergenerational transmission of welfare? We explore these questions by modeling altruistically-linked individuals who experience privately observed taste or productivity shocks. Our positive economy is identical to models with infinite-lived individuals where efficiency requires immiseration: inequality grows without bound and everyone's consumption converges to zero. However, under an intergenerational interpretation, previous work only characterizes a particular set of Pareto-efficient allocations: those that value only the initial generation's welfare. We study other efficient allocations where the social welfare criterion values future generations directly, placing a positive weight on their welfare so that the effective social discount rate is lower than the private one. For any such difference in social and private discounting we find that consumption exhibits mean-reversion and that a steady-state, cross-sectional distribution for consumption and welfare exists, where no one is trapped at misery. The optimal allocation can then be implemented by a combination of income and estate taxation. We find that the optimal estate tax is progressive: fortunate parents face higher average marginal tax rates on their bequests.

Suggested Citation

  • Emmanuel Farhi & Ivan Werning, 2005. "Inequality, Social Discounting and Estate Taxation," NBER Working Papers 11408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11408
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    1. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marek Kapicka & Julian Neira, 2015. "Optimal Taxation with Risky Human Capital," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp553, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    2. Grossmann, Volker & Strulik, Holger, 2010. "Should continued family firms face lower taxes than other estates?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 87-101, February.
    3. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:25:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10797-018-9483-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Juan Carlos Cordoba & Genevieve Verdier, 2005. "Lucas vs. Lucas: On Inequality and Growth," Macroeconomics 0511021, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Zheng Song & Kjetil Storesletten & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2012. "Rotten Parents and Disciplined Children: A Politico‐Economic Theory of Public Expenditure and Debt," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(6), pages 2785-2803, November.
    6. Narayana R Kocherlakota, 2005. "Advances in Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000518, UCLA Department of Economics.
    7. Valeria De Bonis & Luca Spataro, 2010. "Social discounting, migration, and optimal taxation of savings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(3), pages 603-623, July.
    8. repec:eee:pubeco:v:160:y:2018:i:c:p:33-49 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Yuzhe Zhang, 2005. "Dynamic contracting, persistent shocks and optimal taxation," Working Papers 640, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    10. Spataro, Luca & De Bonis, Valeria, 2008. "Accounting for the "disconnectedness" of the economy in OLG models: A case for taxing capital income," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 411-421, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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