Tiebout and sympathy

Harold M. Hochman, Shmuel Nitzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In its simplest form the Tiebout hypothesis suggests that redistribution by local government is not sustainable because individuals, when confronted by negative net fiscal benefits, will vote with their feet, changing their residential locations to jurisdictions which offer a more favorable fiscal balance. It is usually thought, moreover, that they will move (e.g. from central city to suburbs) in descending order of income. Recognition of extended preference modifies this simple characterization of the tiebout process, in which the process of relocation is like 'peeling an onion'. Any relocation sequence is possible, with either sympathy or antipathy. Even for sympathetic individuals with identical tastes, restrictive and unrealistic assumptions are required to predict, with certainty, that individuals with higher incomes would be the first to move. In particular the marginal tax rate must exceed unity. With antipathy, individuals with lower incomes may move before those with higher incomes, even if net fiscal benefits decrease with income, if they become more willing to begrudge transfers to others as their incomes increase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-214
Number of pages20
JournalMathematical Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • Locational structure
  • Tiebout mechanism
  • fiscal incentives
  • tax structure


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