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Mobility and Redistributive Politics

Jean Hindriks ()

Journal of Public Economic Theory, 2001, vol. 3, issue 1, 95-120

Abstract: There is widespread concern that greater mobility of individuals can undermine any attempt to redistribute income at the local level. In this paper we derive the equilibrium level of redistribution when both the rich and the poor are imperfectly mobile and when each jurisdiction chooses its redistributive policy by majority voting. This leads to a fundamental interaction whereby the policy choices of jurisdictions determine whom they attract and where whom they attract determines their policy choices. Our main findings are twofold. First, we show that greater mobility of the poor can increase the equilibrium amount of redistribution. Second, we find that some jurisdictions can be in equilibrium on the "wrong" side of their Laffer curve. The reason is that the poor are in a majority in these jurisdictions and they are opposed to a potentially Pareto-improving tax reduction because it would attract the rich and shift the majority. The analysis also reveals how the interplay between policy choices and membership leads to multiple equilibria. Copyright 2001 by Blackwell Publishing Inc.

Date: 2001
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