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Recent Trends in Top Income Shares in the USA: Reconciling Estimates from March CPS and IRS Tax Return Data

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  • Richard Burkhauser
  • Shuaizhang Feng
  • Stephen Jenkins
  • Jeff Larrimore

Abstract

Although the vast majority of US research on trends in the inequality of family income is based on public-use March Current Population Survey (CPS) data, a new wave of research based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax return data reports substantially higher levels of inequality and faster growing trends. We show that these apparently inconsistent estimates can largely be reconciled once one uses internal CPS data (which better captures the top of the income distribution than public-use CPS data) and defines the income distribution in the same way. Using internal CPS data for 1967–2006, we closely match the IRS data-based estimates of top income shares reported by Piketty and Saez (2003), with the exception of the share of the top 1 percent of the distribution during 1993–2000. Our results imply that, if inequality has increased substantially since 1993, the increase is confined to income changes for those in the top 1 percent of the distribution.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2009/CES-WP-09-26.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 09-26.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:09-26

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Keywords: US Income Inequality; Top income shares; March CPS; IRS tax return data;

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  1. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins, 2007. "Using the P90/P10 Index to Measure U.S. Inequality Trends with Current Population Survey Data: A View From Inside the Census Bureau Vaults," Working Papers 07-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Mary C. Daly & Robert G. Valletta, 2006. "Inequality and Poverty in United States: The Effects of Rising Dispersion of Men's Earnings and Changing Family Behaviour," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(289), pages 75-98, 02.
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  8. 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.
  9. Stephen P. Jenkins & Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Jeff Larrimore, 2009. "Measuring Inequality Using Censored Data: A Multiple Imputation Approach," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 866, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  10. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 352-378, April.
  11. Andrew Leigh, 2007. "How Closely Do Top Income Shares Track Other Measures of Inequality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 562, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  12. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2011. "Estimating trends in US income inequality using the Current Population Survey: the importance of controlling for censoring," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 393-415, September.
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  19. Thomas Piketty, 2003. "Income Inequality in France, 1901-1998," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(5), pages 1004-1042, October.
  20. Emmanuel Saez & Michael R. Veall, 2005. "The Evolution of High Incomes in Northern America: Lessons from Canadian Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 831-849, June.
  21. Fabien Dell, 2005. "Top Incomes in Germany and Switzerland Over the Twentieth Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 412-421, 04/05.
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