The Marriage Market, Inequality and the Progressivity of the Income Tax

By Tim Obermeier

http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:bon:boncrc:crctr224_2019_109&r=dge

This paper studies how the progressivity of the income tax affects intra-household inequality and the marriage market. Tax progressivity increases the after-tax earnings of the lower earning spouse and improves their bargaining position in marriage. This mechanism reduces inequality in consumption and leisure within households. In addition, tax progressivity can change who is single and who marries whom. I study these effects in an equilibrium search and matching model with intra-household bargaining, labor supply and savings. The model is calibrated to data from the Netherlands and used to study a hypothetical reform which increases progressivity by 40% relative to the current system. The reduction of intra-household inequality accounts for 24.77% of the reduction in inequality in private consumption due to the reform, and 11.43% of the reduction in inequality in utility from private and public consumption, leisure and home production. Changes in the composition of couples and singles, due to endogenous marriage and divorce, have small implications for inequality.

This paper is leaving me puzzled. Indeed, the lower earning spouse is usually the one that is less attached to the labor market, and thus is the marginal earner. That income is then the one that faces the higher marginal tax rate under more progressive taxation. The paper seem to to treat the two incomes as simultaneous or even the higher income as being marginal.

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