Automation and inequality with taxes and transfers

Author name: 
Tyers R
Zhou Y

The dependence of real income and inequality on changes in factor abundance, total factor productivity, factor bias, the relative cost of capital goods and the progressivity of the tax system are quantified using an elemental general equilibrium model with three households. Observed declines in low-skill labour shares are shown to have been generic in the OECD and to have been responsible for most of the increase in US inequality between 1990 and 2016. The widely anticipated future twist away from low-skill labour toward capital is then examined, in combination with expected changes in population and its skill composition. With downward rigidity of low-skill wages the potential is identified for unemployment to rise to extraordinarily high levels. Productivity growth at twice the pace since 1990 is shown to limit this, though it does not slow the concentration of income. The superior policy response is shown to be a generalization of the US “earned income tax credit” system, with financing from taxes on consumption, rather than capital income.

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