Taxation and International Migration of Superstars: Evidence from the European Football Market
This paper analyzes the effects of top earnings tax rates on the international migration of football players in Europe. We construct a panel dataset of top earnings tax rates, football player careers, and club performances in the first leagues of 14 Western European countries since 1985. We identify the effects of top earnings tax rates on migration using a number of tax and institutional changes: (a) the 1995 Bosman ruling which liberalized the European football market, (b) top tax rate reforms within countries, and (c) special tax schemes offering preferential tax rates to immigrant football players. We start by presenting reduced-form graphical evidence showing large and compelling migration responses to country-specific tax reforms and labor market regulation. We then develop a multinomial regression framework to exploit all sources of tax variation simultaneously. Our results show that (i) the overall location responses to the net-of-tax rate is positive and large, with an elasticity of the number of foreign players to the net-of-tax rate around one (and an elasticity of the number of domestic players around .15), (ii) location elasticities are even larger at the top of the ability distribution, but negative at the bottom due to ability sorting effects, and (iii) cross-tax effects of foreign players on domestic players (and vice versa) are negative and quite strong due to displacement effects. Those results can be rationalized in a simple model of migration and taxation with rigid labor demand.
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This paper was revised on May 24, 2012