NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in Preferences and Optimal Redistribution

Benjamin B. Lockwood, Matthew C. Weinzierl

NBER Working Paper No. 17784
Issued in January 2012
NBER Program(s):   PE

The prominent but unproven intuition that preference heterogeneity reduces re-distribution in a standard optimal tax model is shown to hold under the plausible condition that the distribution of preferences for consumption relative to leisure rises, in terms of first-order stochastic dominance, with income. Given mainstream functional form assumptions on utility and the distributions of ability and preferences, a simple statistic for the effect of preference heterogeneity on marginal tax rates is derived. Numerical simulations and suggestive empirical evidence demonstrate the link between this potentially measurable statistic and the quantitative implications of preference heterogeneity for policy.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17784

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