The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution
Should the income tax include a credit for short taxpayers and a surcharge for tall ones? The standard Utilitarian framework for tax analysis answers this question in the affirmative. Moreover, a plausible parameterization using data on height and wages implies a substantial height tax: a tall person earning $50,000 should pay $4,500 more in tax than a short person. One interpretation is that personal attributes correlated with wages should be considered more widely for determining taxes. Alternatively, if policies such as a height tax are rejected, then the standard Utilitarian framework must fail to capture intuitive notions of distributive justice.
We are grateful to Ruchir Agarwal for excellent research assistance and to Alan Auerbach, Robert Barro, Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Farhi, Ed Glaeser, Louis Kaplow, Andrew Postlewaite, David Romer, Julio Rotemberg, Alex Tabarrok, Aleh Tsyvinski, Ivan Werning,and two anonymous referees for helpful comments and discussions. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew Weinzierl, 2010. "The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 155-76, February. citation courtesy of