NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Publications by Stefanie Stantcheva

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Working Papers and Chapters

March 2013How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments
with Ilyana Kuziemko, Michael I. Norton, Emmanuel Saez: w18865
We develop online survey experiments to analyze how information about inequality and taxes affects preferences for redistribution. Approximately 4,000 respondents were randomized into treatments providing interactive, customized information on U.S. income inequality, the link between top income tax rates and economic growth, and the estate tax. An additional 6,000 respondents were randomized into follow-up treatments to explore mechanisms underlying the initial results. The treatment has very large effects on whether respondents view inequality as a problem. By contrast, it only slightly moves policy preferences (e.g., top income tax rates and transfer programs). An exception is the estate tax—informing respondents of the small share of decedents who pay it more than doubles support for it...
February 2013Generalized Social Marginal Welfare Weights for Optimal Tax Theory
with Emmanuel Saez: w18835
This paper proposes a theory of optimal taxation using the tax reform approach and generalized social marginal welfare weights to capture social preferences for redistribution. A tax system is optimal if no budget neutral small reform can increase a weighted sum of (money metric) gains and losses across individuals. However, the weights used for aggregating gains and losses are not derived from a standard social welfare function based on individual utilities but instead directly specified to reflect society's views for justice. Optimum tax formulas take the same form as standard welfarist tax formulas by simply substituting standard marginal social welfare weights with those generalized marginal social welfare weights. We show how the use of suitable generalized social welfare weights can ...
November 2011Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities
with Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez: w17616
This paper presents a model of optimal labor income taxation where top incomes respond to marginal tax rates through three channels: (1) standard labor supply, (2) tax avoidance, (3) compensation bargaining. We derive the optimal top tax rate formula as a function of the three corresponding behavioral elasticities. The first elasticity (labor supply) is the sole real factor limiting optimal top tax rates. The optimal tax system should be designed to minimize the second elasticity (avoidance) through tax enforcement and tax neutrality across income forms. The optimal top tax rate increases with the third elasticity (bargaining) as bargaining efforts are zero-sum in aggregate. We provide evidence using cross-country times series macro-evidence and CEO pay micro-evidence. The macro-evidence f...

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