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Income Mobility in the United States: New Evidence from Income Tax Data

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  • Auten, Gerald
  • Gee, Geoffrey
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    Abstract

    While many studies have documented the long–term trend of increasing income inequality in the U.S. economy, there has been less focus on income mobility and the potential opportunity for upward mobility. Data from panels of individual income tax returns suggest that there was considerable income mobility in the U.S. economy over the 1987–1996 and 1996–2005 periods. Consistent with prior mobility studies, the data show that over half of taxpayers moved to a different income quintile and that roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile moved up to a higher income group by the end of each period. By contrast, those with the very highest incomes in the base year were more likely to drop to a lower income group and the median real income of these taxpayers declined in each period. Economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most taxpayers over both time periods. Initial position in the income distribution and changes in marital status were found to be associated with the largest upward or downward movements through the income distribution.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by National Tax Association in its journal National Tax Journal.

    Volume (Year): 62 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (June)
    Pages: 301-28

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    Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:62:y:2009:i:2:p:301-28

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    Cited by:
    1. Till van Treeck, 2012. "Did inequality cause the U.S. financial crisis?," IMK Working Paper 91-2012, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    2. Young, Cristobal & Varner, Charles, 2011. "Millionaire Migration And State Taxation Of Top Incomes: Evidence From A Natural Experiment," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 64(2), pages 255-83, June.
    3. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Larrimore, Jeff & Simon, Kosali I., 2012. "A "Second Opinion" On The Economic Health Of The American Middle Class," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 65(1), pages 7-32, March.
    4. Carrie B. Kerekes, 2011. "Property Rights and Environmental Quality: A Cross-Country Study," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 31(2), pages 315-338, Spring/Su.
    5. Lane Kenworthy & Timothy Smeeding, 2013. "GINI Country Report: Growing Inequalities and their Impacts in the United States," GINI Country Reports united_states, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    6. Gerald Auten & Geoffrey Gee & Nicholas Turner, 2013. "Income Inequality, Mobility, and Turnover at the Top in the US, 1987-2010," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 168-72, May.
    7. Katharine Bradbury, 2011. "Trends in U. S. family income mobility, 1969-2006," Working Papers 11-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

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