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De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in Preferences and Optimal Redistribution

  • Benjamin B. Lockwood
  • Matthew C. Weinzierl

The prominent but unproven intuition that preference heterogeneity reduces re-distribution in a standard optimal tax model is shown to hold under the plausible condition that the distribution of preferences for consumption relative to leisure rises, in terms of first-order stochastic dominance, with income. Given mainstream functional form assumptions on utility and the distributions of ability and preferences, a simple statistic for the effect of preference heterogeneity on marginal tax rates is derived. Numerical simulations and suggestive empirical evidence demonstrate the link between this potentially measurable statistic and the quantitative implications of preference heterogeneity for policy.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17784.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17784
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