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Taxation and Inequality: Active and Passive Channels

Estelle Dauchy (), Francisco Navarro-Sanchez and Nathan Seegert
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Francisco Navarro-Sanchez: University of Utah

Review of Economic Dynamics, 2021, vol. 42, 156-177

Abstract: This paper fills an important gap in our understanding of the role of the US tax system in changing household welfare and inequality. It deconstructs the mechanisms by which the federal income tax system operates to affect the transmission of income shocks to consumption, and therefore, consumption inequality. To this end, it links micro and macro models of the distribution of income and consumption to changes in the federal income tax system. We find important changes in the types of income shocks to which consumers are insured or not, as well as the extent to which tax policy contributes to insuring consumers from these shocks. Importantly, we find that without decomposing the tax system into the three mechanisms outlined in the model, economists might have erroneously inferred that the role of tax policy as a mechanism for consumption insurance did not change over time. We also find that tax policy changes have disproportional effects across socioeconomic groups, and that this contributes to increasing inequality. (Copyright: Elsevier)

Keywords: Inequality; Personal income taxation; Income risk; Consumption (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D12 D31 D91 E21 H24 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/

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