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

16 Pages Posted: 31 May 2009

See all articles by N. Gregory Mankiw

N. Gregory Mankiw

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Matthew Weinzierl

Harvard University - Department of Economics

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Date Written: May 26, 2009

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.

Suggested Citation

Mankiw, N. Gregory and Weinzierl, Matthew, The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution (May 26, 2009). Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 2175, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1410234 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1410234

N. Gregory Mankiw (Contact Author)

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Matthew Weinzierl

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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