Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Business and Economics

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Dr. James Ziliak

Abstract

My dissertation consists of three essays focused on identifying the strategic responses of governments and individuals following changes in the tax and transfer system. Two essays contribute to the literature on fiscal competition, focusing on state level polices aimed at redistributing income. A third essay contributes to the literature estimating the responsiveness of individual’s incomes to changing marginal tax rates. A better understanding of these responses contributes to our ability to design an optimal tax and transfer system in a federalist nation.

In essay 1 I employ a spatial dynamic approach to investigate interstate welfare competition across multiple policy instruments and across three distinct welfare periods - the AFDC regime, the experimental waiver period leading up to the reform, and the TANF era. Results suggest the strategic setting of welfare policy occurs over multiple dimensions of welfare including the effective benefit level and the effective tax rate applied to recipient's earned income. Furthermore, strategic behavior appears to have increased over time, a finding consistent with a race to the bottom after welfare reform.

Another form of interstate competition examined in Essay 3 is the spatial patterns in state level estate tax policy. My examination follows a major reform which greatly altered both the state and federal estate tax landscape. This study develops a model in which a state’s tax base and rate are simultaneously determined. Results indicate a state’s estate tax base is negatively influenced by its own tax rate and positively influenced by the tax rate set in neighboring jurisdictions. A state’s own tax rate is also found to be positively influenced by the tax rates set in neighboring jurisdictions.

Last, Essay 2 uses matched panels from the Current Population Survey for survey years 1980-2009 to estimate the elasticity of taxable income (ETI) and how it varies in response to measurement of the tax rate, heterogeneity across education attainment, selection on observables and unobservable, and identification. Substantial variation in the ETI across all key economic and statistical decisions is found.

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