Household Behavior and the Tax Reform Act of 1986

Jerry A. Hausman, James M. Poterba

NBER Working Paper No. 2120 (Also Reprint No. r0993)
Issued in 1987
NBER Program(s):Public Economics

This paper evaluates the effects of the 1986 Tax Reform Act on household labor supply and savings. It describes the tax bill's effects on incentives to work and to save, and uses recent econometric estimates of labor supply and savings elasticities to describe the reform's impact on household behavior. Two factors lead us to conclude that the new law will have small aggregate effects. First, most households experience only small changes in their marginal tax rates. Forty-one percent of the taxpaying population will face marginal tax rates as high, or higher, under the new law as under the previous tax code. Only eleven percent of taxpayers receive marginal tax rate reductions of ten percentage points or more. Second, plausible estimates of both the labor supply and savings elasticities suggest that even for those households that receive rate reductions, behavioral changes will be small. Our analysis suggests that the tax reform will increase labor supply by about one percent, and slightly reduce private savings.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2120

Published: Hausman, Jerry A. and James M. Poterba. "Household Behavior and the Tax Reform Act of 1986," Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1987, pp . 101-119. citation courtesy of

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