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Tax Benefits for College Attendance

Tax Benefits for College Attendance

  • Tax benefits for higher education make up 17 percent of federal aid for postsecondary students.
  • Families find it difficult to take advantage of tax benefits for higher education. About 14 percent of families do not take benefits for which they qualify. Evidence that tax benefits for higher education induce more students to go to school is weak.
  • The authors explore the potential impact of different simplification strategies, providing a roadmap for future empirical work.

 

Economic and Distributional Effects of Tax Expenditure Limits

Economic and Distributional Effects of Tax Expenditure Limits

  • Reforms to certain tax expenditures considered in this paper can increase tax revenue by as much as $366.3 billion in 2016, equal to almost half of the budget deficit. Smaller reforms produce less revenue.
  • The method of limiting certain tax expenditures, however, can have substantially different impacts on the distribution of taxes paid by income.

Tax Compliance and Enforcement: An Overview of New Research and Its Policy Implications

Tax Compliance and Enforcement: An Overview of New Research and Its Policy Implications
  • The government loses almost 14.5 percent of revenue due to noncompliance, enough money to substantially narrow or even eliminate the federal deficit.
  • Third-party reporting of income is effective at improving reporting of income. However, increased reporting of income from third parties does not necessarily lead to increased tax revenue. In addition, most studies indicate that an appeal to moral duty is not effective at improving reporting of income to tax authorities.
  • Instead, increasing the chances of audit is effective at reducing tax evasion.

Environmental Taxation

Environmental Taxation
  • A carbon tax is a cost-effective way to correct for environmental costs imposed by the production of the energy sector.
  • A carbon tax can produce substantial revenue that can be used to lower other taxes, reduce the deficit, or redistribute income.
  • A carbon tax would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but by how much is uncertain.

Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth

Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth
  • Not all changes to tax policy have the same impact on growth. Studies indicate that tax cuts, if not well designed, could even reduce economic growth.
  • Tax cuts that target new economic activity, reduce distortions to capital accumulation, and are not deficit financed are more likely to lead to economic growth.

The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Social Security Policy Simulator

The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Social Security Policy Simulator
  • The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Social Security Policy Simulator allows users to see the results of six policy options and combinations of those options, for a total of 4,096 policy combinations. Most policies can be simulated on a standard static basis or on a dynamic basis that includes macroeconomic feedback effects.

  • Relative to estimates by the Social Security Administration, the Penn Wharton Budget Model shows a faster and larger deterioration of the program’s finances. Our results are a bit closer to the Congressional Budget Office’s projections.

  • Many standard policy options for achieving solvency barely move the date that the Social Security Trust Fund runs out of money, but they might contribute significantly to the long-run shortfall. Either combinations of several policy changes or larger changes are required for securing Social Security.

The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Immigration Policy Simulator

The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Immigration Policy Simulator

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  • The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Immigration Policy Simulator allows users to see the results of three policy options and combinations of those options, for a total of 125 policy combinations. Policies can be simulated on a standard static basis or on a dynamic basis that includes macroeconomic feedback effects.
  • Shifting the mix of legal immigrants toward college graduates has little impact on employment and only slightly increases GDP. Legalization of undocumented workers slightly reduces employment and has a negligible impact on GDP. Deportations, however, substantially reduce both employment and GDP.
  • The largest positive impact on employment and GDP comes from increasing the net flow of immigrants.

Not Enough Shovels? The Crucial Role of Future Capital Accumulation for U.S. Output Growth

Not Enough Shovels? The Crucial Role of Future Capital Accumulation for U.S. Output Growth
  • Growth in physical capital per worker has contributed the most to U.S. productivity growth.
  • U.S. capital accumulation is increasingly dependent on foreign capital inflows.
  • If future technology improvement occurs at its average historical rate, maintaining U.S. productivity growth will require more rapid capital accumulation, especially because worker efficiency appears likely to stagnate or decline.

The Decline in Labor Efficiency in the United States

The Decline in Labor Efficiency in the United States
  • Workers’ performance on the job is related to all of their demographic and economic attributes, including education, age, family structure, gender, race, labor force status (full- or part-time work), peer group (birth-year), and others.
  • The annual market-wide “effective labor input” depends upon the quantity (number of work hours contributed) and the efficiency (related to worker attributes) of individuals engaged in market production.
  • Labor efficiency is projected to decline in the future and offset growth in labor quantity to slow growth of aggregate “effective labor input.” Official government analysts typically do not project changes in labor efficiency, thereby imparting a more optimistic outlook to budget projections.

Population Aging

Population Aging
  • As in many of the world’s developed nations, America is undergoing a momentous increase in the share of older individuals in the population, or “population aging.”

  • Population aging will continue throughout this century because of baby-boomer retirements, longer lifespans due to declining mortality, and fewer newborns from reduced fertility.

  • Sustained population aging will pose a significant fiscal challenge: How best to provide funding for adequately supporting older generations’ consumption and health care.

Education and Income Growth

Education and Income Growth
  • The large premium that college degree holders earn relative to workers with only a high school diploma suggests that a better-educated workforce would increase U.S. output.
  • Barriers to borrowing against future income, though, may make it difficult to acquire a college education, implying a potential role for using policy to increase access to college, especially if it is appropriately targeted.
  • However, college education is costly, and the payoff is uncertain and realized only after a lengthy absence from the workforce. Optimal policy, therefore, aims to balance these costs against the potential benefits, requiring the explicit modeling of education attainment when making budget projections.

Changes in American Economic Productivity

Changes in American Economic Productivity
  • Improving citizens’ well-being requires increasing productivity over time – the efficiency of converting resources such as labor, land, and physical plant and equipment into useful goods and services.

  • U.S. productivity has slowed dramatically during the last decade, largely due to slower innovation and reduced growth of capital per worker.

  • The productivity slowdown will make funding government programs more challenging. Public policies that encourage additional capital accumulation and reward innovation could reverse at least some of the recent productivity declines.

Socioeconomic Patterns of Marriage and Divorce

Socioeconomic Patterns of Marriage and Divorce
  • U.S. divorce rates remain high and the post-1970s marriage decline is continuing.
  • The marriage decline is concentrated among those with fewer years of education.
  • Low earnings and job insecurity induces single-parenthood with negative side effects on children.

Mortality in the United States: Past, Present, and Future

Mortality in the United States: Past, Present, and Future
  • The United States experienced an unprecedented decline in mortality during the twentieth century, thanks to improvements in public health, medical advances, and behavioral changes.
  • But mortality and life expectancy improvements have been uneven across age and socioeconomic status.
  • Future changes in mortality will affect the federal budget outlook. However, projections of mortality and life expectancy are highly uncertain. This uncertainty creates additional risk for the nation’s transfer programs to the elderly, which already account for half of government outlays.

The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy

The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy
  • While some policymakers have blamed immigration for slowing U.S. wage growth since the 1970s, most academic research finds little long run effect on Americans’ wages.

  • The available evidence suggests that immigration leads to more innovation, a better educated workforce, greater occupational specialization, better matching of skills with jobs, and higher overall economic productivity.

  • Immigration also has a net positive effect on combined federal, state, and local budgets. But not all taxpayers benefit equally. In regions with large populations of less educated, low-income immigrants, native-born residents bear significant net costs due to immigrants’ use of public services, especially education.

Emergent Changes in American Demography and Social Organization

Emergent Changes in American Demography and Social Organization
  • The American Family is changing in response to the pressures and opportunities facing young individuals.
  • Many children today are being raised by single parents, which is associated with a lower transmission of skills to succeeding generations.
  • Technological advances and public provision of social protection benefits appear to be contributing to the decline of the nuclear family.

The Economic Determinants of Fertility Choices

The Economic Determinants of Fertility Choices
  • The demographic transition toward an older population is ongoing in America and Europe. The transition began earlier in Europe where fertility rates have declined much more. Will America follow in Europe’s footsteps?
  • Procreation and family formation appears influenced by the social and economic conditions facing young adults. Younger American women appear to be postponing childbirth. Will this reduce future American TFR to still lower levels?
  • Government policies influence the economic environment and affect fertility choices indirectly. Social Security and various retiree health programs have likely reduced fertility, making their own financing more difficult.

Fertility in the United States: Hanging On?

Fertility in the United States: Hanging On?
  • The baby bust of the 1960s saw the U.S. total fertility rate (TFR) dip to just below the 2.1 live births per woman needed to prevent population decline.
  • U.S. TFR fell again after the Great Recession of 2008-09, which eroded women’s and couples’ economic ability to bear and raise children.
  • Large and persistent declines in European fertility to well below the 2.1 threshold is a worrisome precursor: America’s budget problem of funding elder-care would worsen if the U.S. TFR meets with the same fate as that of Europe.