Matthew C. Weinzierl
Associate Professor of Business Administration
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. His research focuses on the optimal design of economic policy, in particular taxation. Prior to completing his doctoral studies, Professor Weinzierl served as the Staff Economist for Macroeconomics on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and worked in the New York office of McKinsey & Company, specializing in financial services.
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 has written on a range of topics in optimal taxation and optimal economic policy more generally. His most recent projects, associated with the idea of Positive Optimal Tax Theory, focus on identifying and formalizing the goals for tax policy that hold sway among the public, political and economic leaders, and leading tax thinkers, and then characterizing the implications of using those objectives in the analysis of optimal taxation. In other work, he has explored the potential value of age-dependent taxation, the dynamic feedback effects of tax changes, the use of fiscal policy to counteract recessions, the proper price-indexing of Social Security, 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, Journal of Monetary Economics, Economic Journal, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, National Tax Journal, and 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 also the creator of an elective course at HBS entitled "The Role of Government in Market Economies." For that course, he has written case studies on public education, national health insurance, welfare reform, immigration, and a variety of topics in taxation. He has recently launched a new set of research projects focused on the commercialization of the space sector and its implications for the provision of space-related public goods.
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.
Professor Weinzierl’s work focuses on the design of economic policy, especially taxation. His current and recent work can be divided into three broad categories.
First, he has shown how simple reforms might meaningfully improve policy. To take two examples, he has shown how making taxes depend on age, as well as income and other factors, would yield a more efficient and equitable tax system; and he has shown (along with Alex Gelber) how providing poor families with greater after-tax income, for example through expanded child tax credits, could increase the future income-earning abilities of their children and thereby generate substantial gains for all households.
Second, he has challenged some core aspects of the standard approach to optimal policy analysis in the hopes of making it a more relevant, robust literature. He has argued (along with Greg Mankiw) that the standard approach recommends the taxation of height—a policy most people strongly reject. And he has shown that one explanation for that paradox, consistent with both survey evidence and existing policy design, is that people support a mixture of objectives for tax policy that includes J.S. Mill’s Equal Sacrifice principle in addition to the utilitarian objective usually assumed in policy analysis. In other work, he has shown how the standard approach’s assumption that all people have the same preferences can generate misleading results: with Ben B. Lockwood, he has shown how tax policy ought to be less redistributive if people have different tastes for consumption relative to leisure, and in work with Mike Golosov, Aleh Tsyvinski, and Maxim Troshkin he has shown how preference differences ought to affect the taxation of capital income.
Third, he has worked on current issues in fiscal and tax policy. With Greg Mankiw, he has written about the effects of tax cuts in the long term, where their “dynamic scoring” impacts may be large, and about the optimal use of monetary and fiscal policy in short-term business cycle smoothing. In work with Richard Vietor, as part of the HBS initiative on U.S. competitiveness, he has provided recommendations on fiscal policy changes for the United States.