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On the Optimal Provision of Social Insurance: Progressive Taxation versus Education Subsidies in General Equilibrium

In this paper we compute the optimal tax and education policy transition in an economy where progressive taxes provide social insurance against idiosyncratic wage risk, but distort the education decision of households. Optimally chosen tertiary education subsidies mitigate these distortions. We highlight the quantitative importance of general equilibrium feedback effects from policies to relative wages of skilled and unskilled workers: subsidizing higher education increases the share of workers with a college degree thereby reducing the college wage premium which has important redistributive benefits. We also argue that a full characterization of the transition path is crucial for policy evaluation. We find that optimal education policies are always characterized by generous tuition subsidies, but the optimal degree of income tax progressivity depends crucially on whether transitional costs of policies are explicitly taken into account and how strongly the college premium responds to policy changes in general equilibrium.

Authors: 
Dirk Krueger, University of Pennsylvania
Alexander Ludwig, SAFE, University of Mannheim
Publication Date: 
February, 2016
HCEO Working Groups: 
Publication Type: 
Journal: 
Journal of Monetary Economics
Volume: 
77
Pages: 
72-98