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Is it fair to “make work pay”?

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  • R. I. LUTTENS

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  • E. OOGHE

Abstract

The design of the income transfer program for the lower incomes is a hot issue in current public policy debate. Should we stick to a generous welfare state with a sizeable basic income, but high marginal tax rates for the lower incomes and thus little incentives to work? Or, should we “make work pay” by subsidizing the work of low earners, but possibly at the cost of a smaller safety net? We think it is difficult to answer this question without making clear what individuals are (held) responsible for and what not. First, we present a new fair allocation, coined a Pareto Efficient and Shared resources Equivalent allocation (PESE), which compensates for different productive skills, but not for different tastes for working.We also characterize a fair social ordering, which rationalizes the PESE allocation. Second, we illustrate the optimal second-best allocation in a discrete Stiglitz (1982, 1987) economy. The question whether we should have regressive or progressive taxes for the low earners crucially depends on whether the low-skilled have a strictly positive or zero skill. Third, we simulate fair taxes for a sample of Belgian singles. Our simulation results suggest that “making work pay” policies can be optimal, according to our fairness criterion, but only in the unreasonable case in which most of the unemployed are not willing to work.

Suggested Citation

  • R. I. Luttens & E. Ooghe, 2005. "Is it fair to “make work pay”?," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 05/283, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  • Handle: RePEc:rug:rugwps:05/283
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Xavier Ramos & Dirk Van de gaer, 2012. "Empirical Approaches to Inequality of Opportunity: Principles, Measures, and Evidence," Working Papers wpdea1208, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.
    2. Jacquet, Laurence & Van de Gaer, Dirk, 2011. "A comparison of optimal tax policies when compensation or responsibility matter," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1248-1262.
    3. Erwin OOGHE & Andreas PEICHL, 2010. "Fair and efficient taxation under partial control: theory and evidence," Working Papers Department of Economics ces10.32, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    4. Akay, Alpaslan & Bargain, Olivier & Jara, Xavier, 2017. "'Fair' Welfare Comparisons with Heterogeneous Tastes: Subjective versus Revealed Preferences," IZA Discussion Papers 10908, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Erwin Ooghe & Andreas Peichl, 2015. "Fair and Efficient Taxation under Partial Control," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(589), pages 2024-2051, December.
    6. Roland Hodler, 2009. "Redistribution and Inequality in a Heterogeneous Society," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(304), pages 704-718, October.
    7. André Decoster & Peter Haan, 2015. "Empirical welfare analysis with preference heterogeneity," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(2), pages 224-251, April.
    8. Giacomo Valletta, 2009. "A fair solution to the compensation problem," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 32(3), pages 455-478, March.
    9. Giacomo Valletta, 2014. "Health, fairness and taxation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 43(1), pages 101-140, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    make work pay; optimal income taxation; fairness;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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