Current Research

Privatizing Disablity Insurance

Co-Authors: Arthur Seibold and Sebastian Seitz

Public disability insurance (DI) programs in many countries face pressure to reduce their generosity in order to remain sustainable. In this paper, we investigate the welfare effects of giving a larger role to private insurance markets in the face of public DI cuts. Exploiting a unique reform that abolished one part of the German public DI system for younger cohorts, we find that despite significant crowding-in effects, overall private DI take-up remains modest. Moreover, private DI tends to be concentrated among high-income, high-education and low-risk individuals. We do not find any evidence of adverse selection on unpriced risk. Finally, we estimate individual insurance valuations via a revealed preferences approach, a key input for welfare calculations. Taken at face value, the low observed willingness to pay of many individuals implies that providing coverage partly via a private DI market with choice improves welfare. However, we show that distributional concerns as well as individual risk misperceptions can provide grounds for justifying a full public mandate.

Profit Taxation, R&D Spending, and Innovation

Co-Authors: Andreas Lichter, Max Löffler, Ingo Isphording, Thu-Van Nguyen and Felix Pöge

(revise and resubmit at AEJ: Economic Policy)

We study how profit taxation affects plants’ R&D spending and innovation activities. Relying on geocoded survey panel data which approximately covers the universe of R&D-active plants in Germany, we exploit around 7,300 changes in the municipal business tax rate over the period 1987–2013 for identification. Applying event study models, we find a negative and statistically significant effect of an increase in profit taxation on plants’ R&D spending with an implied long-run elasticity of -1.25. Reductions in R&D are particularly strong among more credit-constrained plants. In contrast, homogeneity of effects across the plant size distribution questions policy makers common practice to link targeted R&D tax incentives to plant size. We further find lagged negative effects on the (citation-weighted) number of filed patents.

Effect of Tax Increase on Plants' Total R&D Expenditures

Spillover, Efficiency and Equity Effects of Regional Firm Subsidies

Co-Authors: Nils Wehrhöfer, Tobias Etzel

We analyze the effects of a large place-based policy, subsidizing up to 50% of investment costs of manufacturing firms in East Germany after reunification. We show that a 1-percentage-point decrease in the subsidy rate leads to a 1% decrease in manufacturing employment. We document important spillovers for untreated sectors in treated counties, untreated counties connected via trade and local taxes, whereas we do not find spillovers on counties in the same local labor market. We show that the policy is at least as efficient as cash transfers to the unemployed, but is more effective in curbing regional inequality.

Welfare Effects of Property Taxation

Co-Author: Max Löffler

We analyze the welfare implications of property taxation. Using a sufficient statistics approach, we show that the tax incidence depends on how housing prices, labor and other types of incomes as well as public services respond to property tax changes. Empirically, we exploit the German institutional setting with 5,200 municipal tax reforms for identification. We find that higher taxes are fully passed on to rental prices after three years. The pass-through is lower when housing supply is inelastic. Combining reduced form estimates with our theoretical framework, we simulate the welfare effects of property taxes and show that they are regressive.

On Event Studies and Distributed-Lags in Two-Way Fixed Effects Models: Identification, Equivalence, and Generalization

Co-Author: Kurt Schmidheiny

(conditionally accepted at the Journal of Applied Econometrics)

We discuss important properties and pitfalls of panel-data event study designs. We derive three main results. First, binning of effect window endpoints is a practical necessity and key for identification of dynamic treatment effects. Second, event study designs with binned endpoints and distributed-lag models are numerically identical leading to the same parameter estimates after correct reparametrization. Third, classic dummy variable event study designs can be generalized to models that account for multiple events of different sign and intensity of the treatment, which are particularly interesting for research in labor economics and public finance. We show the practical relevance of our methodological points in a replication study.