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Taxation and the Earnings of Husbands and Wives

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  • Gelber, Alexander

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gelber, Alexander, 2010. "Taxation and the Earnings of Husbands and Wives," MPRA Paper 20345, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:20345
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Esben Anton Schultz, 2011. "Estimating Taxable Income Responses using Danish Tax Reforms," EPRU Working Paper Series 2011-02, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    2. Dominique Goux & Eric Maurin & Barbara Petrongolo, 2014. "Worktime Regulations and Spousal Labor Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 252-276, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Håkan Selin, 2014. "The rise in female employment and the role of tax incentives. An empirical analysis of the Swedish individual tax reform of 1971," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(5), pages 894-922, October.
    5. Raj Chetty, 2012. "Bounds on Elasticities With Optimization Frictions: A Synthesis of Micro and Macro Evidence on Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(3), pages 969-1018, May.
    6. Bastani, Spencer & Selin, Håkan, 2014. "Bunching and non-bunching at kink points of the Swedish tax schedule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 36-49.
    7. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Esben Anton Schultz, 2014. "Estimating Taxable Income Responses Using Danish Tax Reforms," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 271-301, November.
    8. Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen & Schultz, Esben Anton, 2012. "Estimating taxable income responses using Danish tax reforms," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58070, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    taxation; earnings; labor supply; families; spouses; unitary model;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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