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Taxation of Human Capital and Wage Inequality: A Cross-Country Analysis
Fatih Guvenen (au); Burhanettin Kuruscu (au); Serdar Ozkan (au)
Wage inequality has been significantly higher in the U.S. than in continental European countries (CEU) since the 1970s. Moreover, this inequality gap has further widened as the U.S. has experienced a large increase in wage inequality, whereas the CEU has seen only modest changes. This paper studies the role of labor income tax policies for understanding these facts, focusing on male workers. The authors construct a life cycle model in which individuals decide each period whether to go to school, work, or stay non-employed. Individuals can accumulate skills either in school or while working. Wage inequality arises from differences across individuals in their ability to learn new skills as well as from idiosyncratic shocks. Countries with more progressive labor income tax schedules are shown to have (1) significantly lower before-tax wage inequality at different points in time and (2) experienced a smaller rise in wage inequality since the early 1980s. In a comparison between the U.S. and Germany, the combination of skill-biased technical change and changing progressivity of tax schedules explains all the difference between the evolution of inequality in these two countries since the early 1980s. Figures and tables. This is a print on demand report.
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