Bequests or education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper shows that, when parents can endow their offspring with bequests and human capital, markets cannot deliver (generically under laissez-faire) the planner’s choice, if educational investments affect total factor productivity—as empirical evidence establishes. Moreover, for a human capital production function close enough to affine (around market and planner steady states with similar fertilities), the market steady state wage is higher than the marginal productivity of labor at the planner’s steady state, so that the market steady state human capital is too low. In other words, the market misses the planner’s allocation by leading households to transfer to their offspring more in bequests and less in education than would be optimal. These results obtain in spite of parents perfectly internalising (1) the value for their children of their bequests and educational investment, but not (2) the externality on total factor productivity—nor hence on factor prices. The planner’s allocation can, nonetheless, be decentralised subsidising labor income through a lump-sum tax on saving returns that reduces bequests. An estimate of the subsidy needed—for standard functional forms and parameter values estimated from US data—suggests a sizeable market inefficiency.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bequests
  • Externalities
  • Human capital
  • Overlapping generations
  • Total factor productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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