Journal Article | American Economic Journal: Economic Policy | February 2010

The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution

by N. Gregory Mankiw and Matthew C. Weinzierl

Abstract

Should the income tax include a credit for short taxpayers and a surcharge for tall ones? The standard Utilitarian framework for tax analysis answers this question in the affirmative. Moreover, a plausible parameterization using data on height and wages implies a substantial height tax: a tall person earning $50,000 should pay $4,500 more in tax than a short person. One interpretation is that personal attributes correlated with wages should be considered more widely for determining taxes. Alternatively, if policies such as a height tax are rejected, then the standard Utilitarian framework must fail to capture intuitive notions of distributive justice.

Keywords: Taxation; Wages; Personal Characteristics;

Citation:

Mankiw, N. Gregory, and Matthew C. Weinzierl. "The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution." American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2, no. 1 (February 2010): 155–176.