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

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  • Benjamin B. Lockwood
  • Matthew C. Weinzierl

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew C. Weinzierl, 2012. "De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in Preferences and Optimal Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 17784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17784
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Erwin Ooghe & Andreas Peichl, 2015. "Fair and Efficient Taxation under Partial Control," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(589), pages 2024-2051, December.
    2. Matthew Weinzierl, 2014. "Revisiting the Classical View of Benefit-Based Taxation," NBER Working Papers 20735, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. André Decoster & Peter Haan, 2015. "Empirical welfare analysis with preference heterogeneity," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(2), pages 224-251, April.
    4. Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2016. "Generalized Social Marginal Welfare Weights for Optimal Tax Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(1), pages 24-45, January.
    5. Weinzierl, Matthew, 2014. "The promise of positive optimal taxation: normative diversity and a role for equal sacrifice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 128-142.
    6. Lockwood, Benjamin B. & Weinzierl, Matthew, 2015. "De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in preferences and optimal redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 74-80.
    7. Fleurbaey, Marc & Maniquet, François, 2015. "Optimal taxation theory and principles of fairness," CORE Discussion Papers 2015005, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    8. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2012. "Optimal Labor Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 18521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Matthew C. Weinzierl, 2012. "Why do we Redistribute so Much but Tag so Little? The principle of equal sacrifice and optimal taxation," NBER Working Papers 18045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew Weinzierl, 2012. "De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in Preferences and Optimal Redistribution," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-063, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2014.
    11. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew Weinzierl, 2014. "Positive and Normative Judgments Implicit in U.S. Tax Policy, and the Costs of Unequal Growth and Recessions," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-119, Harvard Business School, revised Oct 2014.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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