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Joint Labour Supply of Married Couples: Efficiency and Distribution Effects of Tax and Labour Market Reforms


  • Rolf Aaberge

    (Research Department, Statistics Norway, Oslo, Norway)

  • Ugo Colombino

    (Department of Economics, University of Turin, Italy)

  • Steinar Strøm

    (Department of Economics, University of Oslo, Norway)

  • Tom Wennemo

    (Research Department, Statistics Norway, Oslo, Norway)


The paper presents a model of household labour supply that allows for simultaneous decisions of household members, complex and non-convex choice sets induced by tax and benefit rules, and quantity constraints on hours choice. The model is estimated using the 1993 Bank of Italy’s Survey of Household Income and Wealth, and used to simulate three hypothetical tax reforms: namely, a flat tax and two versions of a negative income tax system, under the constraint of equal tax revenue. All the reforms produce a larger household average disposable income, without worsening much the equality of the income distribution, and are supported by a majority of winners in the sample, although the proportion of winners varies considerably across income deciles. We also simulate the impact on labour supply and income of removing the quantity constraints on hours-wage packages available on the market, constraints that in Italy typically make full-time jobs more easily available than other jobs. The results show a considerable increase in participation among women belonging to relatively poor households, and a slight reductions in hours worked – given participation – across all households.

Suggested Citation

  • Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino & Steinar Strøm & Tom Wennemo, 2005. "Joint Labour Supply of Married Couples: Efficiency and Distribution Effects of Tax and Labour Market Reforms," Labor and Demography 0501004, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0501004
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 24. PDF document

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John C. Ham, 1982. "Estimation of a Labour Supply Model with Censoring Due to Unemployment and Underemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(3), pages 335-354.
    2. Arrufat, Jose Luis & Zabalza, Antonio, 1986. "Female Labor Supply with Taxation, Random Preferences, and Optimization Errors," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(1), pages 47-63, January.
    3. Fortin, Bernard & Truchon, Michel & Beausejour, Louis, 1993. "On reforming the welfare system : Workfare meets the negative income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 119-151, June.
    4. Dickens, William T & Lundberg, Shelly J, 1993. "Hours Restrictions and Labor Supply," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(1), pages 169-192, February.
    5. Ilmakunnas, Seija & Pudney, Stephen, 1990. "A model of female labour supply in the presence of hours restrictions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 183-210, March.
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    7. Colombino, Ugo, 1998. "Evaluating the effects of new telephone tariffs on residential users' demand and welfare. A model for Italy," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 283-303, September.
    8. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino, 1998. "Social Evaluation of Individual Welfare Effects from Income Taxation Empirical Evidence Based on Italian Data for Married Couples," Discussion Papers 230, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    9. Blomquist, N. Soren, 1983. "The effect of income taxation on the labor supply of married men in Sweden," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 169-197, November.
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    13. Aaberge, Rolf & Dagsvik, John K & Strom, Steinar, 1995. " Labor Supply Responses and Welfare Effects of Tax Reforms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 635-659, December.
    14. Aaberge, Rolf & Colombino, Ugo & Strom, Steinar, 1999. "Labour Supply in Italy: An Empirical Analysis of Joint Household Decisions, with Taxes and Quantity Constraints," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(4), pages 403-422, July-Aug..
    15. Bourguignon, F. & O'Donoghue, C. & Sastre-Descals, J. & Spadara, A. & Utili, F., 1997. "Eur3: A Prototype European Tax-Benefit Model," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 9723, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    16. Aaberge, R. & Colombino, U. & Strom, S. & Wennemo, T., 1998. "Evaluating alternative tax reforms in Italy with a model of joint labor supply of married couples," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 415-433, December.
    17. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-90-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Dagsvik, John K, 1994. "Discrete and Continuous Choice, Max-Stable Processes, and Independence from Irrelevant Attributes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1179-1205, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jean-François Carpantier & Christelle Sapata, 2016. "Empirical welfare analysis: when preferences matter," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 46(3), pages 521-542, March.
    2. R. Aaberge & U. Colombino & T. Wennemo, 2009. "Evaluating Alternative Representations Of The Choice Sets In Models Of Labor Supply," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(3), pages 586-612, July.
    3. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino, 2005. "Designing Optimal Taxes With a Microeconometric Model of Household Labour Supply," Public Economics 0510013, EconWPA.
    4. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino & Steinar Strøm, 2004. "Do more equal slices shrink the cake? An empirical investigation of tax-transfer reform proposals in Italy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 17(4), pages 767-785, December.
    5. Ugo Colombino & Marilena Locatelli & Edlira Narazani & Cathal O’Donoghue & Isilda Shima, 2008. "Behavioural and Welfare Effects of Basic Income Policies: A Simulation for European Countries," CHILD Working Papers wp03_08, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
    6. M. Fort & N. Schneeweis & R. Winter-Ebmer, 2011. "More Schooling, More Children: Compulsory Schooling Reforms and Fertility in Europe," Working Papers wp787, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    7. Colombino Ugo & Locatelli Marilena & Narazani Edlira & O'Donoghue Cathal, 2010. "Alternative Basic Income Mechanisms: An Evaluation Exercise With a Microeconometric Model," Basic Income Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, September.
    8. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino, 2005. "A microeconometric model for analysing efficiency and distributional effects of tax reforms: a review of results for Italy and Norwayƒx," Public Economics 0501002, EconWPA.
    9. Rolf Aaberge & Ugo Colombino, 2011. "Empirical Optimal Income Taxation: A Microeconometric Application to Norway," CHILD Working Papers wp16_11, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
    10. Isilda Mara & Edlira Narazani, 2011. "The Effects of Flat Tax on Inequality and Informal Employment: The Case of Albania," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 94, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.

    More about this item


    Tax reforms; Labour supply; Microeconometric models;

    JEL classification:

    • J - Labor and Demographic Economics

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