Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 359–376 | Cite as

Who Pays a Price on Carbon?

  • Corbett A. GraingerEmail author
  • Charles D. Kolstad
Open Access


We use the 2003 Consumer Expenditure Survey and emissions estimates from an input-output model based on the 1997 US economy to estimate the incidence of a price on carbon induced by a cap-and-trade program or carbon tax in the context of the US. We present results on how much different income deciles pay for a carbon tax as well as which industries see the largest increase in costs due to a carbon tax. We illustrate the main determinant of the regressivity: consumption patterns for energy-intensive goods. Furthermore, on a per-capita basis a carbon price is much more regressive than calculations at the household level. We discuss policy options to offset the adverse distributional effects of a carbon emissions policy.


Distributional incidence Carbon tax Tradable permits 

JEL Classification

Q52 Q58 H22 



We would like to thank Don Fullerton, Josh Graff-Zivin, Matthew Kahn, Gilbert Metcalf, Peter Reiss, MargaretWalls, seminar and conference participants, and anonymous referees for comments. We are responsible for all errors. Grainger acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation, Grant No. 0114437.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution,and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and applied EconomicsUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Economics and Bren School of Environmental Science and ManagementUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  4. 4.Resources for the FutureWashingtonUSA
  5. 5.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA

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