The Economics of Vouchers
67 Pages Posted: 19 May 1999 Last revised: 16 Mar 2010
Date Written: April 1999
This paper aims to provide a swift tour of the economic issues presented by vouchers and thus to fill an apparent gap in the literature for a basic survey of the subject. Among the issues it considers are: factors determining a voucher's cash-equivalence; reasons (such as paternalism, externalities, and distribution) for giving beneficiaries non-cash-equivalent vouchers rather than cash; optimal tax issues involved in the design of vouchers and the choice between vouchers and other delivery mechanisms, including factors determining the optimal marginal reimbursement rate (MRR) in a voucher program, and the similarity between this question and that of determining optimal marginal tax rates (MTRs) under the income tax; the incentive effects of voucher eligibility criteria, such as income or asset tests; factors determining the allocative and price effects of vouchers, both in the short run when unexpectedly enacted and at equilibrium; and factors relevant to the choice between private and public supply that may often overlap with the decision whether to adopt a voucher program.
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