Discussion Paper

Distributional Consequences of Public Policies: An Example from the Management of Urban Vehicular Travel

Mar 13, 2014 | Winston Harrington, Elena A. Safirova, Conrad T. Coleman, Sebastien Houde, Adam M. Finkel

Abstract

This paper uses a spatially disaggregated computable general equilibrium model of a large US metropolitan area to compare two kinds of policies, “Live Near Your Work” and taxation of vehicular travel, that have been proposed to help further the aims of “smart growth.” Ordinarily, policy comparisons of this sort focus on the net benefits of the two policies; that is, the total monetized net welfare gains or losses to all citizens. While the aggregate net benefits are certainly important, in this analysis we also disaggregate these benefits along two important dimensions: income and location within the metropolitan area. The resulting identification of gainers and losers with these policies, though undoubtedly important to matters such as fairness and political feasibility, are rarely made. We find that these distributional effects are quite sensitive to the details of policy design.