National Tax Journal

Migration Elasticities, Fiscal Federalism, and the Ability of States to Redistribute Income

Seth H. Giertz, and Mehmet S. Tosun

65 National Tax Journal 1069-92 (December 2012)

Abstract:

This paper develops a simulation model in order to examine the effectiveness of state attempts at redistribution under a variety of migration elasticity assumptions. Key outputs from the simulation include the impact of tax-induced migration on state revenues, excess burden, and fiscal externalities. With modest migration elasticities, the costs of state-level redistribution are substantial, but state action may still be preferred to a federal policy that is at odds with preferences of a state’s citizens. At higher migration elasticities, the costs of state action can be tremendous. Overall excess burden is greater, but this is dominated by horizontal fiscal externalities. Horizontal fiscal externalities represent a cost to the state pursuing additional redistribution, but not a cost at the national level.

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