The Insurance Value of State Tax-and-Transfer Programs

58 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2010 Last revised: 27 Jun 2021

See all articles by Hilary Williamson Hoynes

Hilary Williamson Hoynes

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Erzo F. P. Luttmer

Dartmouth College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: August 2010

Abstract

This paper estimates the total value that individuals derive from their state's tax-and-transfer program, and shows how this value varies by income. The paper decomposes this total value into two components: redistributive value, which is due to predictable changes in income (and family circumstances), and insurance value, which occurs when taxes and transfers compensate for unexpected income shocks. Our approach is a forward-looking one, where we examine income and transfers net of taxes over a 10-year period. We model state taxes (personal income taxes, the EITC, and sales taxes) and state means-tested transfers (AFDC/TANF and Medicaid/SCHIP). The calculations are made using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and allow for analysis of the determinants of changes in the value of state net benefits over a more than 30-year period. We find that the redistributive value of state tax-and-transfer programs sharply declines with income, but that the insurance value of transfers is increasing in income. The resulting total value still declines with income, but not nearly as sharply as the redistributive value. Hence, the insurance value mitigates the incentives for mobility that would "undo" state redistributive spending.

Suggested Citation

Hoynes, Hilary Williamson and Luttmer, Erzo F.P., The Insurance Value of State Tax-and-Transfer Programs (August 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16280, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1662274

Hilary Williamson Hoynes (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Erzo F.P. Luttmer

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Economics
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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