November 2014

IZA DP No. 8666: Human Capital and Optimal Redistribution

revised version published in: Review of Economic Dynamics, 2018, 27, 1-26.

We characterize optimal redistribution in a dynastic family model with human capital. We show how a government can improve the trade-off between equality and incentives by changing the amount of observable human capital. We provide an intuitive decomposition for the wedge between human-capital investment in the laissez faire and the social optimum. This wedge differs from the wedge for bequests because human capital carries risk: its returns depend on the non-diversifiable risk of children's ability. Thus, human capital investment is encouraged more than bequests in the social optimum if human capital is a bad hedge for consumption risk.