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Does Growing Inequality Reduce Tax Progressivity? Should It?

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  • Joel Slemrod
  • Jon Bakija

Abstract

This paper explores the links between two phenomena of the past two decades: striking increase in the inequality of pre-tax incomes, and the failure of tax-and-transfer progressivity to increase. We emphasize the causal links going from inequality to progressivity, noting that optimal taxation theory predicts that growing inequality should increase progressivity. We discuss public choice alternatives to the optimal progressivity framework. The paper also addresses the opposite causal direction: that it is changes in taxation that have caused an apparent increase in inequality. Finally, we discuss the non-event-study' offered by the large changes in the distribution of income--with no major tax changes-- since 1995, and discuss its implications for the link between progressivity and inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod & Jon Bakija, 2000. "Does Growing Inequality Reduce Tax Progressivity? Should It?," NBER Working Papers 7576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7576
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    Cited by:

    1. Enrico Rubolino & Daniel Waldenström, 2020. "Tax progressivity and top incomes evidence from tax reforms," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 18(3), pages 261-289, September.
    2. James M. Poterba & Daniel R. Feenberg, 2000. "The Income and Tax Share of Very High-Income Households, 1960-1995," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 264-270, May.
    3. Andrew Mitrusi & James Poterba, 2000. "The Distribution of Payroll and Income Tax Burdens, 1979-1999," NBER Working Papers 7707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Claudio A Agostini & Bárbara Flores & Claudia Martinez, 2011. "Equidad Tributaria Horizontal en el Impuesto al Ingreso en Chile," Working Papers wp_012, Adolfo Ibáñez University, School of Government.
    5. Laura de Pablos Escobar, 2006. "The Personal Wealth Taxes: The Inheretance and Gift Taxes and the Net Wealth Tax in Spain," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0606, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    6. Esteller-More, Alex & Sole-Olle, Albert, 2001. "Vertical income tax externalities and fiscal interdependence: evidence from the US," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2-3), pages 247-272, April.
    7. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998 (series updated to 2000 available)," NBER Working Papers 8467, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Seth H. Giertz, 2004. "Recent Literature on Taxable-Income Elasticities: Technical Paper 2004-16," Working Papers 16189, Congressional Budget Office.
    10. Mitrusi, Andrew & Poterba, James M., 2000. "The Distribution of Payroll and Income Tax Burdens, 1979-99," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(3), pages 765-794, September.
    11. Elena Briata, 2011. "Marginal tax rates, tax revenues and inequality. Reagan’s fiscal policy," DEP - series of economic working papers 4/2011, University of Genoa, Research Doctorate in Public Economics.
    12. Claudio Agostini, 2013. "Una Reforma Eficiente y Equitativa del Impuesto al Ingreso en Chile," Working Papers wp_028, Adolfo Ibáñez University, School of Government.
    13. Borge, Lars-Erik & Rattso, J.Jorn, 2004. "Income distribution and tax structure: Empirical test of the Meltzer-Richard hypothesis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 805-826, August.
    14. José Mª Durán Cabré & Alejandro Esteller Moré, 2007. "An empirical analysis of wealth taxation: Equity Vs.tax compliance," Working Papers XREAP2007-03, Xarxa de Referència en Economia Aplicada (XREAP), revised Jun 2007.
    15. Berthold, Norbert & Thode, Eric, 2000. "Umverteilung in der Mittelschicht: notwendiges Übel im Kampf gegen Armut?," Discussion Paper Series 34, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Chair of Economic Order and Social Policy.
    16. Mitrusi, Andrew & Poterba, James M., 2000. "The Distribution of Payroll and Income Tax Burdens, 1979-99," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 3), pages 765-94, September.

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