Overcoming Wealth Inequality by Capital Taxes that Finance Public Investment
NBER Working Paper No. 25126
Wealth inequality is rising in rich countries. Capital taxation used simply to finance redistribution may not be able to counteract this trend, but can increased public investment financed by higher capital taxes? We examine how such a policy affects the distribution of wealth in a setting with distinct wealth groups: dynastic savers and life-cycle savers. Our main finding is that public investment financed through capital taxes always decreases wealth inequality when the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor is moderately high. Indeed, for all elasticities of substitution greater than a threshold value, at high enough capital tax rates, dynastic savers disappear in the long run. Below these rates, both types of households co-exist in equilibrium with life-cycle savers gaining from the higher capital tax rates. These results are robust with respect to the different roles of public investment in production. We calibrate our model to OECD economies and find the threshold elasticity to be 0.82.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25126