Working Papers



March 2014, No. 14-04

Does Redistribution Increase Output? The Centrality of Labor Supply

Kartik B. Athreya, Andrew Owens and Felipe Schwartzman

The aftermath of the recent recession has seen numerous calls to use transfers to poorer households as a means to enhance aggregate activity. We show that the key to understanding the direction and size of such interventions lies in labor supply decisions. We study the aggregate impact of short-term redistributive economic policy in a standard incomplete-markets model. We characterize analytically conditions under which redistribution leads to an increase or decrease in effective hours worked, and hence, output. We then show that under the parameterization that matches the wealth distribution in the U.S. economy (Castaneda et al., 2003), wealth redistribution leads to a boom in consumption, but not in output.

Our Research Focus: Labor Markets

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