The Economics of Vouchers

David F. Bradford, Daniel N. Shaviro

NBER Working Paper No. 7092
Issued in April 1999
NBER Program(s):   PE

This paper aims to provide a swift tour of the economic issues presented by vouchers and thus to fill an apparent gap in the literature for a basic survey of the subject. Among the issues it considers are: factors determining a voucher's cash-equivalence; reasons (such as paternalism, externalities, and distribution) for giving beneficiaries non-cash-equivalent vouchers rather than cash; optimal tax issues involved in the design of vouchers and the choice between vouchers and other delivery mechanisms, including factors determining the optimal marginal reimbursement rate (MRR) in a voucher program, and the similarity between this question and that of determining optimal marginal tax rates (MTRs) under the income tax; the incentive effects of voucher eligibility criteria, such as income or asset tests; factors determining the allocative and price effects of vouchers, both in the short run when unexpectedly enacted and at equilibrium; and factors relevant to the choice between private and public supply that may often overlap with the decision whether to adopt a voucher program.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7092

Published: Steuerle, C. Eugene, et al. (eds.) Vouchers and the provision of public services. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press; Washington, D.C.: Committee for Economic Development, 2000.

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