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Distributional Effects of Environmental Taxes on Transportation. Evidence from Engel Curves in the United States

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Abstract

Indirect taxes on transportation activities that pollute can correct externalities and close the gaps between private and social costs. However, policy makers often find such Pigou taxes difficult to implement because of political resistance due to possibly adverse affects on equity. For this reason it is important to assess the distributional aspects of environmental levies. This article estimates properties of the demand for transportation in parametric and non-parametric analyses of Consumer Expenditure Surveys for the United States, 2000, and finds patterns in the resulting set of Engel curves. Private transportation using air flights and new automobiles have Engel elasticities above unity while public transportation via mass transit has Engel elasticity below unity. The findings can be interpreted in an important way since they show that a differentiated scheme of environmental taxes on transportation may function progressively. A Pigou scheme with larger taxes on modes of transportation that pollute more appears to coincide with larger levies on luxury modes preferred by richer households.

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  • Erling Røed Larsen, 2005. "Distributional Effects of Environmental Taxes on Transportation. Evidence from Engel Curves in the United States," Discussion Papers 428, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:428
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    File URL: http://www.ssb.no/a/publikasjoner/pdf/DP/dp428.pdf
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    1. Richard W. Blundell & Martin Browning & Ian A. Crawford, 2003. "Nonparametric Engel Curves and Revealed Preference," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 205-240, January.
    2. Erling Røed Larsen, 2002. "Estimating Latent Total Consumption in a Household," Discussion Papers 324, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    3. John DiNardo & Justin L. Tobias, 2001. "Nonparametric Density and Regression Estimation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 11-28, Fall.
    4. Lawrence Goulder, 1995. "Environmental taxation and the double dividend: A reader's guide," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 2(2), pages 157-183, August.
    5. Bovenberg, A Lans & de Mooij, Ruud A, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 252-253, March.
    6. S. Proost & D. Regemorter, 1995. "The double dividend and the role of inequality aversion and macroeconomic regimes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 2(2), pages 207-219, August.
    7. Mayeres, Inge & Proost, Stef, 1997. " Optimal Tax and Public Investment Rules for Congestion Type of Externalities," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(2), pages 261-279, June.
    8. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Krishna Pendakur, 1998. "Semiparametric estimation and consumer demand," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(5), pages 435-461.
    9. Richard Schmalensee & Thomas M. Stoker, 1999. "Household Gasoline Demand in the United States," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(3), pages 645-662, May.
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    Keywords

    consumption patterns; double dividend; Engel curves; environmental levies; equity; externality; indirect taxation; Pigou correction; redistribution; transportation; travel;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise

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