Tax Law, Inequality, and Redistribution: Recent and Possible Future Developments

23 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2021 Last revised: 11 Mar 2022

See all articles by Daniel Shaviro

Daniel Shaviro

New York University School of Law

Date Written: November 12, 2021


The current age of inequality is also an age of extensive tax and related public economics scholarship about inequality. Three prominent aspects of recent research especially stand out. The first concerns empirical measurement of economic inequality, as it has changed over time. The second concerns different mechanisms for taxing the rich, such as through the taxation of income, wealth, consumption, or gratuitous transfers. The third concerns new uses of the tax system to address poverty.

Each of these research areas can, should, and undoubtedly will continue to develop. I will suggest, however, that two further sets of issues raised by inequality demand greater attention than they have heretofore received. The first is normative inquiry regarding why, when, how, and to what extent inequality matters, moving beyond the economic literature’s often predominant focus on declining marginal utility. The second is better connecting the analysis of purely economic inequality to that of its other dimensions, such as racial and ethnic inequality. In both areas, given tax law’s institutional focus, a key aim should be to offer policymakers potentially usable guidance, by suggesting what practical implications a particular normative view (and/or particular empirical findings) might have.

Keywords: inequality, redistribution, income taxation, racial inequality

JEL Classification: H20, H23, H24

Suggested Citation

Shaviro, Daniel, Tax Law, Inequality, and Redistribution: Recent and Possible Future Developments (November 12, 2021). NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 22-06, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel Shaviro (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

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