Who Benefits from State Corporate Tax Cuts? A Local Labor Markets Approach with Heterogeneous Firms (with O. Zidar), American Economic Review, 106(9): 2582-2624, September 2016↳ (1) Paper, (2) Slides, (3) NBER Working Paper, (4) NBER Digest Summary , (5) BIB
↳ In Media: Washington Post, Vox, Washington Post Wonkblog, Chicago Sun-Times, Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Wall Street Journal.
↳Abstract. This paper estimates the incidence of state corporate taxes on the welfare of workers, landowners, and firm owners using variation in state corporate tax rates and apportionment rules. We develop a spatial equilibrium model with imperfectly mobile firms and workers. Firm owners may earn profits and be inframarginal in their location choices due to differences in location-specific productivities. We use the reduced-form effects of tax changes to identify and estimate incidence as well as the structural parameters governing these impacts. In contrast to standard open economy models, firm owners bear roughly 40% of the incidence, while workers and landowners bear 30-35% and 25-30%, respectively.
Estimating Local Fiscal Multipliers [REVISED]
(with P. Wingender), July 2016, R&R, Econometrica (3rd Round)↳ (1) Revised Paper (July 2016), (2) BIB
Previous Version (March 2014)
↳Abstract. We propose a new source of cross-sectional variation that may identify causal impacts of government spending on the economy. We use the fact that a large number of federal spending programs depend on local population levels. Every ten years, the Census provides a count of local populations. Since a different method is used to estimate non-Census year populations, this change in methodology leads to variation in the allocation of billions of dollars in federal spending. Our baseline results follow a treatment-effects framework where we estimate the effect of a Census Shock on federal spending, income, and employment growth by re-weighting the data based on an estimated propensity score that depends on lagged economic outcomes and observed economic shocks. Our estimates imply a local income multiplier of government spending between 1.7 and 2, and a cost per job of $30,000 per year. A complementary IV estimation strategy yields similar estimates. We also explore the potential for spillover effects across neighboring counties but we do not find evidence of sizable spillovers. Finally, we test for heterogeneous effects of government spending and find that federal spending has larger impacts in low-growth areas.
Broken or Fixed Effects? [REVISED]
(with M. Urbancic and C. Gibbons), August 2017, Resubmitted to Journal of Econometric Methods↳ (1) Paper, (2) BIB
↳ Stata and R Commands
↳ To Install the R Command execute the following code:
install.packages(’http://cgibbons.us/research/packages/GSSU.tar.gz’,type = ’source’,repos = NULL)
↳ To Install the Stata Command execute the following code:
* Loads website
net from http://www.jcsuarez.com/GSSU
* Describes package
net describe GSSU
* Installs commands
net install GSSU
* Downloads example data
net get GSSU
* Installs required package for GSSUgetrdone.ado
ssc install estout, replace
↳Abstract. We replicate eight influential papers to provide empirical evidence that, in the presence of heterogeneous treatment effects, OLS with fixed effects (FE) is generally not a consistent estimator of the sample-weighted average treatment effect (SWE). We propose two alternative estimators that recover the SWE in the presence of group-specific heterogeneity. We document that heterogeneous treatment effects are common and the SWE is often statistically and economically different from the FE estimate. In all but one of our replications, there is statistically significant treatment effect heterogeneity and, in six, the SWEs are either economically or statistically different from the FE estimates.
Estimating the Incidence of Government Spending
(with P. Wingender), December 2014↳ (1) Paper, (2) Slides, (3) BIB
↳ Policy Brief: SIEPR.
↳Abstract. This paper analyzes the economic incidence of sustained changes in federal government spending at the local level. We use a new identification strategy to isolate geographical variation in formula-based federal spending and develop three sets of results. First, we find that sustained changes in federal spending have significant effects on migration, income, wages, and rents, as well as on local government revenues and expenditures. Second, we show that the effects of a government spending shock are qualitatively different from those of a local labor demand shock. We develop a spatial equilibrium model to show that when workers value publicly-provided goods, a change in government spending at the local level will affect equilibrium wages through shifts in both the labor demand and supply curves. We test the reduced-form predictions of the model and show that workers value government services as amenities. Finally, we estimate workers' marginal valuation of government services and find that unskilled workers have a higher valuation of government services than skilled workers. We use these estimates to decompose the demand and supply components of a government spending shock and to evaluate the impacts on welfare that are produced by increasing government spending in a given area. Our estimates conclude that an additional dollar of government spending increases welfare by $1.45 in the median county.
State Taxes and Spatial Misallocation [REVISED]
(with P. Fajgelbaum, E. Morales, and O. Zidar), March 2016, R&R, Review of Economic Studies↳ (1) Paper, (2) BIB
↳ In Media: VOX EU, WUNC
↳Abstract. We study state taxes as a potential source of spatial misallocation in the United States. We build a spatial general-equilibrium framework that incorporates salient features of the U.S. state tax system, and use changes in state tax rates between 1980 and 2010 to estimate the model parameters that determine how worker and firm location responds to changes in state taxes. We find that tax dispersion leads to aggregate losses and the potential losses from even greater tax dispersion can be large. A government-spending-constant elimination of spatial dispersion in state taxes (which account for 4% of GDP) would increase worker welfare by 0.2%, while doubling spatial tax dispersion would reduce worker welfare by 0.4%.
The Limits of Meritocracy: Screening Bureaucrats Under Imperfect Verifiability [REVISED]
(with X-Y. Wang and S. Zhang), June 2017, under review↳ (1) Paper, (2) BIB
↳ In Media: Money Talks, The Economist, Financial Times
↳ Note: This replaces an earlier version of the paper titled "The One Child Policy and Promotion of Mayors in China."
↳Abstract. Meritocracies that aim to identify high-ability bureaucrats are less effective when performance is imperfectly observed. First, we show meritocratic governments forgo output maximization when they design incentives that screen for ability. This trade-off has empirical implications that reveal whether governments prioritize screening. We show Chinese governments used the One Child Policy to screen mayors, implying a meritocratic objective. Second, we show misreporting limits bureaucratic screening. Using a non-manipulated measure of performance, we show mayors misreported performance metrics, and that promoted mayors were not of higher ability. We thus challenge the notion that meritocratic promotions were effective substitutes for democratic institutions.
Notching R&D Investment with Corporate Income Tax Cuts in China [NEW]
(with Z. Chen, Z. Liu, and D. Xu), June 2017↳ (1) Paper, (2) BIB
↳Abstract. We analyze the effects of a large fiscal incentive for R&D investment in China that awards a lower average corporate income tax rate to qualifying firms. The sharp incentives of the program generate notches, or jumps, in firm values, and vary over time and across firm characteristics. We exploit a novel link between survey and administrative tax data of Chinese firms to estimate investment responses, the potential for evasion, as well as effects on productivity and tax payments. We find large responses of reported R&D using a cross-sectional "bunching" estimators that is new in the R&D literature. We also find evidence that firms relabel administrative expenses as R&D to qualify for the program, and that up to 45% of the response may be due to relabeling. These effects imply user-cost-elasticities of 2 for the reported response, and 1.14 for the real response. Using the panel structure of the data, we estimate that the program increased firm productivity by 2.3% for targeted firms. Compared to the loss in tax revenue, it cost the government 4.8% of corporate tax revenue to raise productivity by 1%. These estimates are crucial ingredients for designing policies that trade-off corporate tax revenue with productivity growth.
Tax Advantages and Imperfect Competition in Auctions for Municipal Bonds [NEW]
(with D. Garrett, A. Ordin, and J.W. Roberts), May 2017, under review↳ (1) Paper, (2) BIB
↳Abstract. We show that the effect of tax advantages of municipal bonds on the market microstructure of municipal bond auctions is a crucial determinant of state and local governments' borrowing costs. Reduced-form estimates show that increasing the tax advantage by 3-pp. lowers mean borrowing costs by 9-10%, consistent with a greater-than-unity passthrough elasticity. Non-parametric evidence shows that strategic participation and bidding in imperfectly-competitive auctions generates this greater-than-unity passthrough. Using a structural auction model to evaluate the efficiency of Obama and Trump administration proposals, we find that the reduction in municipal borrowing costs is 2.8-times the revenue cost of the tax advantage.
The Structure of State Corporate Taxation and its Impact on State Tax Revenues and Economic Activity [NEW] (with O. Zidar), July 2017, under review↳ (1) Paper, (2) BIB
↳ In Media: IB Times, Tax Notes
↳Abstract. This paper documents facts about the state corporate tax structure -- tax rates, base rules, and credits -- and investigates its consequences for state tax revenue and economic activity. We present three main findings. First, tax base rules and credits explain more of the variation in the state corporate tax revenue than tax rates do. Second, although states typically do not offset tax rate changes with base and credit changes, the effects of tax rate changes on tax revenue and economic activity depend on the breadth of the base. Third, as states have narrowed their tax bases, the relationship between tax rates and tax revenues has diminished. Overall, changes in state tax bases have made the state corporate tax system more favorable for corporations and are reducing the extent to which tax rate increases raise corporate tax revenue.