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Introduction and overview


Contemporary public economics

This chapter provides an overview of reasons for and nature of dramatic changes that have taken place in public economics in the past few decades. It gives a brief account of innovations in public economics that have taken place in large part due to developments in economic theory. It is argued that ideas and tools of information theory and game theory have significantly altered the theory and practice of public economics. Developments in the public choice theory and inter temporal analysis also had far reaching impact on way in which economists think about public economics issues and design public policy. These theoretical developments in turn have implications for empirical analysis. The subsequent eight chapters in this book reflect some of these implications. They cover topics such as the targeting of income transfers to the disabled, the control of tax evasion, the efficiency of government, the tendency of the political process to be benevolent towards the electorate, and the role of government in fostering economic growth.
Robin Boadway, Baldev Raj

Economics of public programs


The changing economic status of U.S. disabled men: Trends and their determinants, 1982-1991

We track the level of economic well-being of the population of men who began receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in 1980-81 from the time just after they became beneficiaries (in 1982) to 1991. We present measures of the economic well-being of disabled individuals and their nondisabled peers as indicators of the relative economic position of these two groups. These measures also provide an intertemporal comparison of wellbeing and hardship as disabled persons and their nondisabled peers age and retire. We first show several economic well-being indicators for new male recipients of disability benefits in 1982 and 1991. We then compare their economic position to that of a matched group of nondisabled males with sufficient work histories to have been disability-insured. Because labor market changes over this decade have led to a relative deterioration in the position of younger and less-educated workers, we compare men with disabilities to those without disabilities and distinguish different age and educational levels within the groups. We conclude by assessing the antipoverty effectiveness of Social Security income support for both younger and older male SSDI recipients.
Robert Haveman, Karen Holden, Barbara Wolfe, Paul Smith, Kathryn Wilson

The role of labour demand elasticities in tax incidence analysis with heterogeneous labour

Whether labour bears full burden of household level income and consumption taxes ultimately depends on the degree of substitutability among different types of labour in production. We find more variation in incidence patterns across households with less than perfectly substitutable heterogeneous labour than with perfectly substitutable homogeneous labour in production. This finding is based on results obtained from homogeneous and heterogeneous labour general equilibrium tax models calibrated to decile level income and consumption distribution data of UK households for the year 1994. We use labour supply elasticities implied by the substitution elasticity in households’ utility functions and derive labour demand elasticities from the substitution elasticity in the production function.
Keshab Bhattarai, John Whalley

Tax leakages and efficiency


Modelling the hidden economy and the tax-gap in New Zealand

This paper develops and estimates a structural, latent variable, model for the hidden economy in New Zealand, and a separate currency-demand model. The estimated latent variable model is used to generate an historical time-series index of hidden economic activity, which is calibrated via the information from the currency-demand model. Special attention is paid to data non-stationarity, and to diagnostic testing. Over the period 1968 to 1994, the size of the hidden economy is found to vary between 6.8% and 11.3% of measured GDP. This, in turn, implies that the total tax-gap is of the order of 6.4% to 10.2% of total tax liability in that country. Of course, not all of this foregone revenue would be recoverable, as not all of the activity in the underground economy is responsive to changes in taxation or other policies.
David E. A. Giles

Tax efficiency in selected Indian states

This paper attempts to measure pure tax efficiency of fifteen major Indian states (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) for the period 1980-81 to 1992-93 in a manner that allows this efficiency to vary both across time as well as across states. It is discovered that there is a moral hazard problem in the design of central grants in that higher grants by the central government to the state governments reduce efficiency of tax collection by these states. The less poor states are more efficient in tax collection. The rankings of states by tax efficiency for the various years do not converge. An index of aggregate tax efficiency is calculated and it appears that this index has been stagnating. It is argued that the weight placed on tax effort in the formula determining central grants to state governments should be increased to improve tax efficiency of state governments.
Raghbendra Jha, M. S. Mohanty, Somnath Chatterjee, Puneet Chitkara

Do governments act in the interest of their constituents?


Tax reforms and the growth of government

This paper analyzes alternative approaches to measuring the effects of structural tax changes on government growth. It first reviews traditional time series approaches that attempt to disentangle the causal relationships between taxes and spending. It explains why these methods are incapable of uncovering the true causal links because of problems of observational equivalence and why institutional data can assist in making this determination. It then presents the methods and results from two alternative approaches and studies that analyze the effects of changes in tax structures on government growth. Both methods rely on econometric and institutional analysis.
Steven M. Sheffrin

Empirics of the median voter hypothesis in Japan

This paper empirically analyses for the first time the median voter hypothesis in Japan as a means of investigating whether or not Japanese prefectural finance reflects the preference of the median voter. The hypothesis is tested by estimating the demand functions of local public goods in each prefecture. As official data on the income of the median voter is unavailable in Japan, respective prefectural data is constructed using official data on income distribution and taxation. Reasonable intuitive interpretation of results indicates that the median voter hypothesis is supported in prefectural finances, and that voter preference affects the outcome of gubernatorial elections, i.e., a governor’s reelection probability, by estimating a probit model. When considering the centralized prefectural government system in Japan, these results indicate that central government management of prefectural expenditures via inter-regional grants ultimately reflects jurisdictional median voter preference.
Takero Doi

Optimality of the public capital stock


Estimates of optimal public capital stocks in Japan using a public investment discount rate framework

The purpose of this paper is to empirically assess the optimality of the level of public capital in Japan. We use a methodological approach based on Burgess’s (1988) procedure for calculating the public discount rate. This approach involves estimating a production function, but does not necessarily require utility function estimation. The results indicate that, although the Japanese economy experienced a public capital deficiency over the period 1960-1982, public capital moved toward optimal levels throughout the period.
Jiro Nemoto, Kimiyoshi Kamada, Makoto Kawamura

On the long run effect of public capital on aggregate output: Estimation and sensitivity analysis

We undertake a sensitivity analysis of the productivity of public capital under the aggregate production function approach. Several proxies are used for the private inputs and for public capital, several dummy variables are included to adjust for energy price shocks, newly revised data is studied, and Stock and Watson’s dynamic OLS estimator is used. Our main results are that the productivity of public capital depends critically on the proxies used, the effects are typically smaller than the early estimates, and omitting the oil price shocks introduces significant upward bias in the measured productivity of public capital.
Raymond G. Batina
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