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The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective

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  • Facundo Alvaredo
  • Anthony B. Atkinson
  • Thomas Piketty
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

The top 1 percent income share has more than doubled in the United States over the last 30 years, drawing much public attention in recent years. While other English-speaking countries have also experienced sharp increases in the top 1 percent income share, many high-income countries such as Japan, France, or Germany have seen much less increase in top income shares. Hence, the explanation cannot rely solely on forces common to advanced countries, such as the impact of new technologies and globalization on the supply and demand for skills. Moreover, the explanations have to accommodate the falls in top income shares earlier in the twentieth century experienced in virtually all high-income countries. We highlight four main factors. The first is the impact of tax policy, which has varied over time and differs across countries. Top tax rates have moved in the opposite direction from top income shares. The effects of top rate cuts can operate in conjunction with other mechanisms. The second factor is a richer view of the labor market, where we contrast the standard supply-side model with one where pay is determined by bargaining and the reactions to top rate cuts may lead simply to a redistribution of surplus. Indeed, top rate cuts may lead managerial energies to be diverted to increasing their remuneration at the expense of enterprise growth and employment. The third factor is capital income. Overall, private wealth (relative to income) has followed a U-shaped path over time, particularly in Europe, where inherited wealth is, in Europe if not in the United States, making a return. The fourth, little investigated, element is the correlation between earned income and capital income, which has substantially increased in recent decades in the United States.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 27 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 3-20

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:27:y:2013:i:3:p:3-20

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.3.3
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  1. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Camille Landais & Esben Schultz, 2013. "Migration and Wage Effects of Taxing Top Earners: Evidence from the Foreigners' Tax Scheme in Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 333-378.
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  8. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence from Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 445-87, June.
  9. Peter A. Diamond & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations," CESifo Working Paper Series 3548, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  11. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
  12. Anthony B. Atkinson, 2012. "The Mirrlees Review and the State of Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(3), pages 770-80, September.
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  1. The top 1 percent
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-07-30 14:49:00
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Cited by:
  1. Godar, Sarah & Paetz, Christoph & Truger, Achim, 2014. "Progressive tax reform in OECD countries : perspectives and obstacles," ILO Working Papers 485510, International Labour Organization.
  2. Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez & Emmanuel Chavez & Gerardo Esquivel, 2013. "Growth is (really) good for the (really) rich," Serie documentos de trabajo del Centro de Estudios Económicos 2013-09, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos.
  3. De Donder, Philippe & Roemer, John E, 2013. "An allegory of the political influence of the top 1%," CEPR Discussion Papers 9745, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Salvatore Morelli, 2014. "Banking Crises in the US: the Response of Top Income Shares in a Historical Perspective," CSEF Working Papers 359, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  5. European Commission, 2013. "Tax reforms in EU Member States - Tax policy challenges for economic growth and fiscal sustainability – 2013 Report," Taxation Papers 38, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
  6. Marcin Kacperczyk & Jaromir B. Nosal & Luminita Stevens, 2014. "Investor Sophistication and Capital Income Inequality," NBER Working Papers 20246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Salverda, Wiemer & Checchi, Daniele, 2014. "Labour-Market Institutions and the Dispersion of Wage Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 8220, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. John Foster & William Paul Bell & Phil Wild & Deepak Sharma & Suwin Sandu & Craig Froome & Liam Wagner & Suchi Misra & Ravindra Bagia, 2013. "Analysis of institutional adaptability to redress electricity infrastructure vulnerability due to climate change," Energy Economics and Management Group Working Papers 6-2013, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  9. Kohler, Pierre, 2014. "Asset-Centred Redistributive Policies for Sustainable Development," MPRA Paper 55357, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Paul Eckerstorfer & Johannes Halak & Jakob Kapeller & Bernhard Schütz & Florian Springholz & Rafael Wildauer, 2014. "Correcting wealth survey data for the missing rich: The case of Austria," Economics working papers 2014-01, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  11. Jon D. Wisman & Aaron Pacitti, 2013. "Ending the Crisis With Guaranteed Employment and Retraining," Working Papers 2013-12, American University, Department of Economics.
  12. Pirmin Fessler & Martin Schürz, 2013. "Cross-Country Comparability of the Eurosystem Household Finance and Consumption Survey," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 2, pages 29–50.
  13. Herr, Hansjörg & Ruoff, Bea, 2014. "Wage dispersion : empirical developments, explanations, and reform options," ILO Working Papers 485325, International Labour Organization.

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