Redistribution through Education and Other Transfer Mechanisms

Eric A. Hanushek
Charles Ka Yui Leung
Published Date
Journal of Monetary Economic
pp. 1719-1750
Educational subsidies are frequently justified as a method of altering the income distribution. It is thus natural to compare education to other tax-transfer schemes designed to achieve distributional objectives. While equity-efficiency trade-offs are frequently discussed, they are rarely explicitly treated. This paper creates a general equilibrium model of school attendance, labor supply, wage determination, and aggregate production, which is used to compare alternative redistribution devices in terms of both deadweight loss and distributional outcomes. A wage subsidy generally dominates tuition subsidies across a wide range of fundamental parameters for the economy. Both are generally superior to a negative income tax. With externalities in production, however, there is an unambiguous role for governmental subsidy of education, because it both raises GDP and creates a more equal income distribution.