Politicians' Reaction to Gender-based Taxation: A Survey Experiment

Guggi Margrethe Munk & Sophie Ferdinand Ellgaard

Student thesis: Master thesis


In 2011 Alberto Alesina, Andrea Ichino, and Loukas Karabarbounis published a paper with the argument that gender-based taxation, where women were taxed less than men, because their labour supply were more elastic, would have positive effects on society. Along with creating a smaller gender pay gap, intrafamily bargaining would begin from a more economically equal footing, meaning an increase of both spouses partaking in the labour market as well as contributing more equally at home. Gender-based taxation has been discussed in academia, though not extensively, and has been discussed mainly in the form of household taxation or as secondary earner taxation. However, the research that exists concurs with Alesina et al. (2011). This paper, taking the findings of Alesina et al (2011) as given, seeks to understand the reactions of politicians in regards to gender-based taxation across five countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy and Spain. To this aim, we conducted a survey experiment asking whether politicians in parliaments of the five countries would vote favourably for gender-based taxation or not if their government or parliament were to propose it. We analysed the answers received in regards to nationality, gender, age, whether the contacted subjects have children or not as well as political orientation. Finally, we tested whether gender-neutral or gendered language had an effect on whether politicians would vote for gender-based taxation or not, by posing the question in two differently worded sentences for each half of the sample pool. In addition to this we reached out to a list of Interest Organisations as well as to Political Parties in order to collect qualitative data to support the findings in our survey experiment. Our research contributes to the existing academic and public discussion on gender-based taxation. While the proposal of this type of taxation so far has remained confined to the realm of theoretical economics, this is the first survey experiment to our knowledge on gender-based taxation with politicians as the main target. This brings a novel, practical dimension to the discussion of whether gender-based taxation is well received in politics and can be practically implemented. In addition, our study provides suggestions for useful future 6 research on this topic. Scholars can use and expand our survey experiment to test whether theoretically optimal tax proposals are well received by politicians and how they can be efficiently implemented. Our research is conducted based on the position that it is important to test theoretical results with empirical or experimental data and combine the two. This is especially significant if the aim is to derive efficient policy implications and move towards policy change.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages123