Do Higher Marginal Tax Rates Lead Superstar Athletes to Play Less Often?

Let’s think, for a moment, about why people want more money:

(1) To buy stuff.

(2) To keep score.

(3) To accumulate power.

Perhaps there are others, but these seem to me to be the big three.

OK, so there seem to be two kinds of athletes in the world (with respect to consumption):

(I) Those with entourages.
(II) Those without entourages.

It takes an entourage for superstar athletes to spend all the money they make–it would otherwise be hard to spend an eight figure money quickly enough (people can even afford private jets at those incomes).

So let’s think about those with entourages. If their taxes go up, they will actually have to work harder to keep their entourages. That should mean they play more, not less.

For those without entourages, the marginal utility of consumption must be zero–this is the implication of not being able to spend all your money. So their incentives must arise from reasons (2) and (3).

Scorekeeping is independent of taxes. If an athlete wants to say he/she has the most winnings, they will have an incentive to play more games.

That leaves power. Higher marginal taxes reduce the ability of high income people to accumulate power, which may mean they work/play less. I don’t know that this is entirely a bad thing.

About Richard K. Green 102 Articles

Affiliation: University of Southern California

Richard K. Green, Ph.D., is the Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. He holds the Lusk Chair in Real Estate and is Professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development and the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Prior to joining the USC faculty, Dr. Green spent four years as the Oliver T. Carr, Jr., Chair of Real Estate Finance at The George Washington University School of Business. He was Director of the Center for Washington Area Studies and the Center for Real Estate and Urban Studies at that institution. Dr. Green also taught real estate finance and economics courses for 12 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was Wangard Faculty Scholar and Chair of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics. He also has been principal economist and director of financial strategy and policy analysis at Freddie Mac.

His research addresses housing markets, housing policy, tax policy, transportation, mortgage finance and urban growth. He is a member of two academic journal editorial boards, and a reviewer for several others.

His work is published in a number of journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Journal of Urban Economics, Land Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Real Estate Economics, Housing Policy Debate, Journal of Housing Economics, and Urban Studies.

His book with Stephen Malpezzi, A Primer on U.S. Housing Markets and Housing Policy, is used at universities throughout the country. His work has been cited or he has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and the Economist, as well as other outlets.

Dr. Green earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his A.B. in economics from Harvard University.

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