Matthew C. Weinzierl

Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow

Matt Weinzierl completed his PhD in economics at Harvard University in 2008 and is an Associate Professor in the Business, Government, and the International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School.  Prior to his doctoral studies, Professor Weinzierl worked in the New York office of McKinsey & Company, specializing in financial services.  From 2003 to 2004, he served as the Staff Economist for Macroeconomics on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Matt Weinzierl completed his PhD in economics at Harvard University in 2008 and is an Associate Professor in the Business, Government, and the International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School.  Prior to his doctoral studies, Professor Weinzierl worked in the New York office of McKinsey & Company, specializing in financial services.  From 2003 to 2004, he served as the Staff Economist for Macroeconomics on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Professor Weinzierl’s research focuses on the optimal design of tax policy.  In particular, he has written on the potential value of age-dependent taxation, the dynamic feedback effects of tax changes, the use of fiscal policy to counteract recessions, and the impact of differences in beliefs and tastes across individuals on optimal tax design.  His research has been published in Review of Economic Studies, Journal of Public Economics, American Economic Journals: Economic Policy, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Journal of Economic Perspectives, and has been discussed in the Economist, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.  In 2008, he was selected to participate in the Review of Economic Studies tour. He is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Professor Weinzierl is married to Coventry Edwards-Pitt, a wealth advisor.  Their family lives in the western suburbs of Boston and spends its free time enjoying music, the outdoors, and ice cream.

  1. The Potential of Positive Optimal Taxation

    At the heart of modern optimal tax research is the assumption that the objective of taxation is Utilitarian. I present new survey evidence that most people disagree with this assumption, preferring tax policies based at least in part on a classic alternative objective: the principle of Equal Sacrifice. I generalize the standard model to accommodate this preference for a mixed objective, proposing a method by which to make disparate criteria commensurable while respecting Pareto efficiency. Then, I show that optimal policy in this generalized model, calibrated to the survey evidence and U.S. microdata, quantitatively matches several features of existing tax policy that are incompatible in the conventional model but widely endorsed in reality, including the coexistence of substantial redistribution and limited tagging. Together, these findings demonstrate the potential of a positive theory of optimal taxation.
  2. The Roots of Our Tax Debates

    Our fiscal debates are endlessly frustrating. The outlines of a compromise seem clear, yet both sides remain incapable of agreement. But is the proper balance between spending less and taxing more really so obvious? A look at what underlies the political wars over taxes reveals that the nation is not merely arguing about budgets: Americans are trying to reconcile deeply held, and often contradictory, beliefs about why we tax.
  3. Why Do We Tax?

    There is a mismatch between what many scholars assume is the purpose of taxes and what most people believe for themselves. That mismatch means that the advice experts offer to policymakers and citizens debating tax policy can sometimes seem to miss the point. We could all benefit from fixing this gap.

    In this Q&A with HBS Working Knowledge, Prof. Weinzierl discusses his new research that updates the theory of taxation so that its predictions better match what we see in real-world policy.