IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Tax-Benefit Systems in Europe and the US: Between Equity and Efficiency

  • Olivier Bargain
  • Mathias Dolls
  • Dirk Neumann
  • Andreas Peichl
  • Sebastian Siegloch

Whether observed differences in redistributive policies across countries are the result of differences in social preferences or efficiency constraints is an important question that paves the debate about the optimality of welfare regimes. To shed new light on this question, we estimate labor supply elasticities on microdata and adopt an inverted optimal tax approach to characterize the redistributive preferences embodied in the welfare systems of 17 EU countries and the US. Implicit social welfare functions are broadly compatible with the fiction of an optimizing Paretian social planner. Some exceptions due to generous demogrant transfers are consistent with the ignorance of behavioral responses by some European governments and are partly corrected by recent policy developments. Heterogeneity in leisure-consumption preferences somewhat affect the international comparison in degrees of revealed inequality aversion, but differences in social preferences are signi ficant only between broad groups of countries.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: First version, 2011
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by School of Economics, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201102.

in new window

Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201102
Contact details of provider: Postal:
UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4

Phone: +353-1-7067777
Fax: +353-1-283 0068
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Bargain, Olivier & Orsini, Kristian & Peichl, Andreas, 2011. "Labor supply elasticities in Europe and the US," EUROMOD Working Papers EM1/11, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  2. François Bourguignon & Amedeo Spadaro, 2012. "Tax–benefit revealed social preferences," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 10(1), pages 75-108, March.
  3. Alberto Alesina & George-Marios Angeletos, 2004. "Fairness and Redistribution," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 122247000000000306,
  4. 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.
  5. Herwig Immervoll & Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "Welfare reform in European countries: a microsimulation analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(516), pages 1-44, 01.
  6. Elena Stancanelli, 2007. "Evaluating the Impact of the French tax credit on the employment rate of women," Sciences Po publications N°2007-33, Sciences Po.
  7. Corneo, Giacomo & Gruner, Hans Peter, 2002. "Individual preferences for political redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 83-107, January.
  8. Ravi Kanbur & Jukka Pirttilä & Matti Tuomala, 2006. "Non-Welfarist Optimal Taxation And Behavioural Public Economics," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(5), pages 849-868, December.
  9. Irena Grosfeld & Claudia Senik, 2010. "The emerging aversion to inequality," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 18(1), pages 1-26, 01.
  10. André DECOSTER & Erik SHCOKKAERT, 1989. "Equity and efficiency of a reform of Belgian indirect taxes," Discussion Papers (REL - Recherches Economiques de Louvain) 1989023, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  11. Dearing, Helene & Hofer, Helmut & Lietz, Christine & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf & Wrohlich, Katharina, 2007. "Why are Mothers Working Longer Hours in Austria than in Germany? A Comparative Micro Simulation Analysis," Economics Series 213, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  12. Heckman, James J, 1993. "What Has Been Learned about Labor Supply in the Past Twenty Years?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 116-21, May.
  13. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1996. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 605-637.
  14. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  15. Richard Blundell & Thomas MaCurdy, 1998. "Labour supply: a review of alternative approaches," IFS Working Papers W98/18, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  16. Kristian Orsini, 2006. "Is Belgium 'making work pay'?," Working Papers Department of Economics ces0605, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
  17. Richard Blundell & Andrew Shephard, 2011. "Employment, Hours of Work and the Optimal Taxation of Low Income Families," Working Papers 1307, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  18. Corneo, Giacomo & Fong, Christina M., 2007. "What´s the monetary value of distributive justice," Discussion Papers 2007/8, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  19. Alberto F. Alesina & Paola Giuliano, 2009. "Preferences for Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 14825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114.
  21. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  22. Amedeo Spadaro, 2008. "Optimal taxation, social contract and the four worlds of welfare capitalism," Working Papers 98, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  23. Bargain, Olivier & Caliendo, Marco & Haan, Peter & Orsini, Kristian, 2006. "'Making Work Pay' in a Rationed Labour Market," IZA Discussion Papers 2033, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  24. Ann-Sofie Isaksson & Annika Lindskog, 2009. "Preferences for redistribution- A country comparison of fairness judgements," Post-Print hal-00724184, HAL.
  25. Diamond, P., 1980. "Income taxation with fixed hours of work," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 101-110, February.
  26. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Introduction to "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 1-14 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  28. Robert Moffitt & John Karl Scholz, 2010. "Trends in the Level and Distribution of Income Support," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 24, pages 111-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. John Creedy & Guyonne Kalb & Rosanna Scutella, 2003. "Discrete Hours Labour Supply Modelling: Specification, Estimation and Simulation," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2003n21, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  30. Decoster, André & Haan, Peter, 2010. "Empirical Welfare Analysis in Random Utility Models of Labour Supply," IZA Discussion Papers 5301, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  31. Vincenzo Atella & Jay S. Coggins & Federico Perali, 2004. "Aversion to Inequality in Italy and its Determinants," CEIS Research Paper 56, Tor Vergata University, CEIS.
  32. Olivier Bargain & Amedeo Spadaro, 2008. "Optimal taxation, social contract and the four worlds of welfare capitalism," Working Papers 200816, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  33. van Soest, A.H.O. & Das, J.W.M., 2000. "Family labor supply and proposed tax reforms in the Netherlands," Other publications TiSEM 57d9aef0-cc35-4fb2-9be2-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  34. Dr Justin van de Ven, 2004. "Estimating Equivalence Scales for Tax and Benefits Systems," NIESR Discussion Papers 229, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  35. M. Weeks, 2003. "Discrete choice methods with simulation, Kenneth E. Train, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-521-81696-3, pp. 334," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 379-383.
  36. Claudia Senik, 2007. "Ambition and jealousy. Income interactions in the "Old" Europe versus the "New" Europe and the United States," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590828, HAL.
  37. Boone, J. & Bovenberg, A.L., 2004. "The optimal taxation of unskilled labor with job search and social assistance," Other publications TiSEM 23eaec1d-2ceb-483e-98a9-e, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  38. Bargain, Olivier & Doorley, Karina, 2011. "Caught in the trap? Welfare's disincentive and the labor supply of single men," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1096-1110.
  39. Peter Haan & Viktor Steiner, 2005. "Labor Market Effects of the German Tax Reform 2000," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 472, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  40. James Banks & R Disney & Alan Duncan & John Van Reenen, 2004. "The Internationalisation of Public Welfare Policy," CEP Discussion Papers dp0656, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  41. Herwig Immervoll, 2004. "Average and Marginal Effective Tax Rates Facing Workers in the EU: A Micro-Level Analysis of Levels, Distributions and Driving Factors," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 19, OECD Publishing.
  42. Herwig Immervoll & Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Nicolaj Verdelin, 2008. "An Evaluation of the Tax-Transfer Treatment of Married Couples in European Countries," EPRU Working Paper Series 08-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  43. Viktor Steiner & Katharina Wrohlich, 2005. "Work Incentives and Labor Supply Effects of the ‘Mini-Jobs Reform’ in Germany," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 91-116, 03.
  44. Tim Callan & Arthur van Soest & John R. Walsh, 2009. "Tax Structure and Female Labour Supply: Evidence from Ireland," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(1), pages 1-35, 03.
  45. Samuel Bentolila & Andrea Ichino, 2008. "Unemployment and consumption near and far away from the Mediterranean," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 21(2), pages 255-280, April.
  46. Euwals, Rob & van Soest, Arthur, 1999. "Desired and actual labour supply of unmarried men and women in the Netherlands," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 95-118, March.
  47. Herwig Immervoll, 2007. "Minimum Wages, Minimum Labour Costs and the Tax Treatment of Low-Wage Employment," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 46, OECD Publishing.
  48. Grosfeld, Irena & Senik, Claudia, 2010. "The emerging aversion to inequality - Evidence from subjective data," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1006, CEPREMAP.
  49. Kenneth Train, 2003. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number emetr2, December.
  50. Eichhorst, Werner & Konle-Seidl, Regina, 2005. "The interaction of labor market regulation and labor market policies in welfare state reform," IAB Discussion Paper 200519, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
  51. Peter Haan & Katharina Wrohlich, 2007. "Optimal Taxation: The Design of Child Related Cash- and In-Kind-Benefits," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 65, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  52. Michiel Evers & Ruud Mooij & Daniel Vuuren, 2008. "The Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply: A Synthesis of Empirical Estimates," De Economist, Springer, vol. 156(1), pages 25-43, March.
  53. Bradley T. Heim & Bruce D. Meyer, 2003. "Work Costs and Nonconvex Preferences in the Estimation of Labor Supply Models," NBER Working Papers 9429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  54. Philippe Chone & Guy Laroque, 2001. "Optimal Incentives for Labor Force Participation," Working Papers 2001-26, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  55. Diamond, Peter A, 1998. "Optimal Income Taxation: An Example with a U-Shaped Pattern of Optimal Marginal Tax Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 83-95, March.
  56. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Julian McCrae & Costas Meghir, 2000. "The labour market impact of the working families’ tax credit," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(1), pages 75-103, March.
  57. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moff03-1, September.
  58. Guy Laroque, 2005. "Income Maintenance and Labor Force Participation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 341-376, 03.
  59. Viktor Steiner & Katharina Wrohlich, 2004. "Work Incentives and Labor Supply Effects of the 'Mini-Jobs Reform' in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 438, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  60. Peter Lambert & Xavier Ramos, 1997. "Horizontal Inequity and Vertical Redistribution," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 4(1), pages 25-37, January.
  61. Richard Blundell & Mike Brewer & Peter Haan & Andrew Shephard, 2009. "Optimal Income Taxation of Lone Mothers: An Empirical Comparison of the UK and Germany," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages F101-F121, 02.
  62. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1039-1073.
  63. Bradley T. Heim, 2009. "Structural Estimation of Family Labor Supply with Taxes: Estimating a Continuous Hours Model Using a Direct Utility Specification," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
  64. Eissa, Nada & Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 2004. "Taxes and the labor market participation of married couples: the earned income tax credit," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1931-1958, August.
  65. Laurent Simula & Alain Trannoy, 2006. "Optimal Linear Income Tax when Agents Vote with their Feet," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 62(3), pages 393-415, September.
  66. Williamson Hoyne, Hilary, 1997. "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 89-117, August.
  67. Hilary Hoynes, 1993. "Welfare Transfers in Two-Parent Families: Labor Supply and Welfare Participation Under AFDC-UP," NBER Working Papers 4407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  68. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:63:y:2009:i:1:p:146 is not listed on IDEAS
  69. Arthur van Soest, 1995. "Structural Models of Family Labor Supply: A Discrete Choice Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 63-88.
  70. Sutherland, Holly, 2001. "EUROMOD: an integrated European benefit-tax model: final report," EUROMOD Working Papers EM9/01, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201102. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Nicolas Clifton)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.