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Optimal Redistribution in an Open Economy

  • Oleg Itskhoki

    (Harvard University)

Conventional wisdom suggests that the optimal policy response to rising income inequality is greater redistribution via higher marginal tax rates and more progressive tax schedules. In this paper we study an economy in which trade is associated with a costly entry into the foreign market, so that only the most productive agents can profitably participate in foreign trade. In this model, trade integration simultaneously leads to rising income inequality and a more sensitive efficiency margin of taxation, both driven by the extensive margin of trade. As a result, the optimal policy response may be to reduce the marginal taxes, thereby further increasing inequality. In order to reap most of the welfare gains from trade, countries may need to accept increasing income inequality.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2009 Meeting Papers with number 967.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed009:967
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  1. Levinsohn, James, 1999. "Employment responses to international liberalization in Chile," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 321-344, April.
  2. Orazio Attanasio & Pinelopi Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2003. "Trade Reforms and Wage Inequiality in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 9830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Spector, David, 2001. "Is it possible to redistribute the gains from trade using income taxation?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 441-460, December.
  4. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting Trade: Firms, Industries, and Export Destinations," NBER Working Papers 10344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Carl Davidson & Steven J. Matusz, 2006. "Trade Liberalization And Compensation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(3), pages 723-747, 08.
  6. Giulia Faggio & Kjell Salvanes & John Van Reenen, 2007. "The Evolution of Inequality in Productivity and Wages: Panel Data Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13351, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Stephen Redding, 2009. "Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy," CEP Discussion Papers dp0940, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  8. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(3), pages 691-751, September.
  9. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059, March.
  10. Paolo Epifani & Gino Gancia, 2005. "Openness, government size and the terms of trade," Economics Working Papers 915, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jan 2008.
  11. Andrew B Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and productivity in international trade," Working Papers 00-08, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Wages, Unemployment and Inequality with Heterogeneous Firms and Workers," NBER Working Papers 14122, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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