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Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences

  • Louis Kaplow

Optimal policy rules--including those regarding income taxation, commodity taxation, public goods, and externalities--are typically derived in models with homogeneous preferences. This article reconsiders many central results for the case in which preferences for commodities, public goods, and externalities are heterogeneous. When preference differences are observable, standard second-best results in basic settings are unaffected, except those for the optimal income tax. Optimal levels of income taxation may be higher, the same, or lower on types who derive more utility from various goods, depending on the nature of preference differences and the concavity of the social welfare function. When preference differences are unobservable, all policy rules may change. The determinants of even the direction of optimal rule adjustments are many and subtle.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14170.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14170.

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Date of creation: Jul 2008
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Publication status: published as Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, vol. 8(1).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14170
Note: EEE LE PE
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  1. Louis Kaplow, 2003. "Public Goods and the Distribution of Income," NBER Working Papers 9842, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2001. "Any Non-welfarist Method of Policy Assessment Violates the Pareto Principle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 281-286, April.
  3. Laroque, Guy R., 2005. "Indirect taxation is superfluous under separability and taste homogeneity: a simple proof," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 141-144, April.
  4. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  5. Armstrong, Mark & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1999. "Multi-dimensional screening:: A user's guide," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 959-979, April.
  6. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-72, October.
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  8. J. A. Mirrlees, 1976. "Optimal Tax Theory: A Synthesis," Working papers 176, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Diamond, P. A., 1975. "A many-person Ramsey tax rule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 335-342, November.
  10. MARCHAND, Maurice & PESTIEAU, Pierre & DEL MAR RACIONERO, Maria, 2003. "Optimal redistribution when different workers are indistinguishable," CORE Discussion Papers 2003018, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  11. CREMER, Helmuth & PESTIEAU , Pierre & ROCHET, Jean-Charles, . "Direct versus indirect taxation: the design of the tax structure revisited," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1528, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. Ebert,Udo, 1988. "Optimal income taxation: On the case of two-dimensional populations," Discussion Paper Serie A 169, University of Bonn, Germany.
  13. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
  14. Marc Fleurbaey, 2005. "Is Commodity Taxation Unfair?," IDEP Working Papers 0502, Institut d'economie publique (IDEP), Marseille, France, revised Jan 2005.
  15. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
  16. Louis Kaplow, 2006. "Optimal Control of Externalities in the Presence of Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 12339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1988. "Cash versus Kind, Self-selection, and Efficient Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 691-700, September.
  18. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1984. "Quasi-Pareto Social Improvements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 1033-50, December.
  19. Hylland, Aanund & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. " Distributional Objectives Should Affect Taxes but not Program Choice or Design," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 264-84.
  20. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1984. "Interpersonal level comparability implies comparability of utility differences," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-20, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  21. Kaplow, Louis, 2006. "On the undesirability of commodity taxation even when income taxation is not optimal," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1235-1250, August.
  22. Boadway, Robin & Keen, Michael, 2000. "Redistribution," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 677-789 Elsevier.
  23. Konishi, Hideo, 1995. "A Pareto-improving commodity tax reform under a smooth nonlinear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 413-446, March.
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