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The Efficiency Cost of Increased Progressivity

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  • Robert K. Triest

Abstract

Increases in income tax progressivity generally entail some efficiency cost due to increased distortion of individuals' labor supply decisions. This paper quantifies the magnitude of the efficiency cost of several policies which would increase the progressivity of the U.S. individual income tax. The analysis differs from previous work on this topic in allowing for complex nonlinear tax schedules similar to those which actually exist. The efficiency cost of increased progressivity is found to vary considerably with the type of tax reform considered. Expanding the earned income tax credit (EITC) is found to be a particularly efficient means of increasing progressivity. Using the labor supply parameters I consider most reasonable, I find that the efficiency cost of expanding the EITC financed by increased tax rates in the intermediated brackets is less than 20 cents per dollar transferred from the upper income groups to the lower income groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert K. Triest, 1993. "The Efficiency Cost of Increased Progressivity," NBER Working Papers 4535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4535
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    Cited by:

    1. R. H. Haveman & J. K. Scholz, "undated". "The Clinton welfare reform plan: Will it end poverty as we know it," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1037-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    2. Herwig Immervoll & Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "Welfare reform in European countries: a microsimulation analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(516), pages 1-44, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Roed, Knut & Strom, Steinar, 2002. " Progressive Taxes and the Labour Market: Is the Trade-Off between Equality and Efficiency Inevitable?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(1), pages 77-110, February.
    5. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Incentives and Income Distribution," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 12, pages 83-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Nuria Badenes Plá & Julio López Laborda, 2002. "Efectos sobre la renta disponible y el bienestar de la deducción en el IRPF por rentas ganadas," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 160(1), pages 103-120, march.
    7. Stuart Adam, 2005. "Measuring the marginal efficiency cost of redistribution in the UK," IFS Working Papers W05/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    8. Peter Lindert, 2003. "Why The Welfare State Looks Like a Free Lunch," Working Papers 27, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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