Credible Redistributive Policies and Migration across US States
Does worker mobility undermine governments ability to redistribute income? This paper analyzes the experience of US states in the recent decades. We build a tractable model where both migration decisions and redistribution policies are endogenous. We calibrate the model to match skill premium and worker productivity at the state level, as well as the size and skill composition of migration flows. The calibrated model is able to reproduce the large changes in skill composition as well as key qualitative relationships of labor flows and redistribution policies observed in the data. Our results suggest that regional di¤erences in labor productivity are an important determinant of interstate migration. We use the calibrated model to compare the cross-section of redistributive policies with and without worker mobility. The main result of the paper is that interstate migration has induced substantial convergence in tax rates across US states, but no race to the bottom. Skill-biased in-migration has reduced the skill premium and the need for tax-based redistribution in the states that would have had the highest tax rates in the absence of mobility.
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