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Taxation and the Earnings of Husbands and Wives

  • Gelber, Alexander

This paper examines the response of husbands' and wives' earnings to a tax reform in which husbands' and wives' tax rates changed independently, allowing me to examine the effect of both spouses' incentives on each spouse's behavior. I compare the results to those of more simplified econometric models that are used in the typical setting in which such independent variation is not available. Using administrative panel data on approximately 11% of the married Swedish population, I analyze the impact of the large Swedish tax reform of 1990-1. I find that in response to a compensated rise in one spouse's tax rate, that spouse's earned income rises, and the other spouse's earned income also rises. I test and reject a set of models in which the family maximizes a single utility function. A standard econometric specification, in which one spouse reacts to the other spouse's income as if it were unearned income, yields biased coefficient estimates. Uncompensated elasticities of earned income with respect to the fraction of income kept after taxes are over-estimated by a factor of more than three, and income effects are of the wrong sign. A second common specification, in which overall family income is related to the family's tax rate and income, also yields substantially over-estimated own compensated and uncompensated elasticities. Standard econometric specifications may substantially mis-estimate earnings responses to taxation.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 20345.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:20345
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  1. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," NBER Working Papers 15617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
  4. Alberto Alesina & Andrea Ichino & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2011. "Gender-Based Taxation and the Division of Family Chores," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 1-40, May.
  5. Chetty, Nadarajan, 2012. "Bounds on Elasticities With Optimization Frictions: A Synthesis of Micro and Macro Evidence on Labor Supply," Scholarly Articles 9748524, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
  7. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "The Optimal Income Taxation of Couples," NBER Working Papers 12685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Costas Meghir, 1995. "Estimating labour supply responses using tax reforms," IFS Working Papers W95/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  9. Holmlund, Bertil & Söderström, Martin, 2008. "Estimating dynamic income responses to tax reforms: Swedish evidence," Working Paper Series 2008:28, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  10. Blomquist, Sören & Selin, Håkan, 2008. "Hourly Wage Rate and Taxable Labor Income Responsiveness to Changes in Marginal Tax Rates," Working Paper Series 2008:16, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  11. Martin Browning & Pierre-André Chiappori & Valérie Lechene, 2006. "Collective and Unitary Models: A Clarification," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 5-14, 03.
  12. Chetty, Nadarajan, 2009. "Is the Taxable Income Elasticity Sufficient to Calculate Deadweight Loss? The Implications of Evasion and Avoidance," Scholarly Articles 9748527, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Bjorklund, Anders, 1991. " Unemployment and Income Distribution: Time-Series Evidence from Sweden," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(3), pages 457-65.
  14. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," NBER Working Papers 12944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Orley Ashenfelter & James Heckman, 1971. "The Estimation of Income and Substitution Effects in a Model of Family Labor Supply," Working Papers 402, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  16. Boskin, Michael J. & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1983. "Optimal tax treatment of the family: Married couples," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 281-297, April.
  17. G. Burtless & J. A. Hausman, 1977. "The Effect of Taxation on Labor Supply: Evaluating the Gary Negative Income Tax Experiment," Working papers 211, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  18. Åsa Hansson, 2007. "Taxpayers' responsiveness to tax rate changes and implications for the cost of taxation in Sweden," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 14(5), pages 563-582, October.
  19. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2010. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," CAM Working Papers 2010-03, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
  20. Jennifer Hunt, 1998. "Hours Reductions as Work-Sharing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 339-381.
  21. Gustman, Alan L & Steinmeier, Thomas L, 2000. "Retirement in Dual-Career Families: A Structural Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 503-45, July.
  22. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2002. "Timing, togetherness and time windfalls," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 601-623.
  23. Jacob Mincer, 1962. "Labor Force Participation of Married Women: A Study of Labor Supply," NBER Chapters, in: Aspects of Labor Economics, pages 63-105 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  25. Austan Goolsbee, 1999. "Evidence on the High-Income Laffer Curve from Six Decades of Tax Reform," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 1-64.
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