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American Economic Journal: Economic Policy: Vol. 2 No. 1 (February 2010)

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The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution

Article Citation

Mankiw, N. Gregory, and Matthew Weinzierl. 2010. "The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution." American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2(1): 155-76.

DOI: 10.1257/pol.2.1.155

Abstract

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. (JEL D64, H21, H23, H24, J11)

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Authors

Mankiw, N. Gregory (Harvard U)
Weinzierl, Matthew (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

D64: Altruism
H21: Taxation and Subsidies: Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
H23: Taxation and Subsidies: Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
H24: Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies; includes inheritance and gift taxes
J11: Demographic Trends and Forecasts; General Migration

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