Grade Redistribution

by Elaine Schwartz    •    May 7, 2011    •    831 Views

In this video, college students approve of proposals to “tax the rich.” However, when asked if those in the top 10% of GPAs should have their grades redistributed, they emphatically say, “No.”

But, is income redistribution really that different from grade redistribution?

Students were told that a 4.0 could be considered excessive. They were reminded that some of their peers had lower GPAs because they had to work. Others with less ability were struggling and might not graduate. All of the high grade earners just had to give a little of their GPA to others. They refused.

I know, grades and income feel different. But no one could come up with really good reasons that explicitly distinguished the two.

In an Atlantic commentary, economics editor Megan McArdle concludes that, “…most of us just want to redistribute income because, well, we wanna…not because we have any particularly good reason…”

You might want to refer to this econlife for some tax insights.

The Economic Lesson 

Contemplating taxes takes us to three approaches: Progressive taxation takes a higher percent from those who have higher incomes.  Regressive taxation takes a higher percent from those with lower incomes.  Proportional taxation takes the same percent from all.  Our current individual income tax approach is progressive while a sales tax is regressive.

An Economic Question: In a debate, how would you support a progressive approach to grade redistribution? Could any of your arguments apply to a progressive approach to income redistribution?

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