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Lifetime Earnings Inequality in Germany

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  • Timm Bönke
  • Giacomo Corneo
  • Holger Lüthen

Abstract

This paper documents the magnitude, pattern, and evolution of lifetime earnings inequality in Germany. Based on a large sample of earning biographies from social security records, we show that the intra-generational distribution of lifetime earnings of male workers has a Gini coefficient around .2 for cohorts born in the late 1930s and early 1940s; this amounts to about 2/3 of the value of the Gini coefficient of annual earnings. Within cohorts, mobility in the distribution of yearly earnings is substantial at the beginning of the lifecycle, decreases after-wards and virtually vanishes after age forty. Earnings data for thirty-one cohorts reveals striking evidence of a secular rise of intra-generational inequality in lifetime earnings: West-German men born in the early 1960s are likely to experience about 80 % more lifetime inequality than their fathers. In contrast, both short-term and long-term intra-generational mobility have been rather stable. Longer unemployment spells of workers at the bottom of the distribution of younger cohorts contribute to explain 30 to 40 % of the overall increase in life-time earnings inequality.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.386863.de/dp1160.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 1160.

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Length: 44 p.
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1160

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Keywords: Lifetime Earnings; Earnings Distribution; Inequality; Mobility; Germany;

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References

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  1. Manudeep Bhuller & Magne Mogstad & Kjell G.Salvanes, 2011. "Life-cycle bias and the returns to schooling in current and lifetime earnings," Discussion Papers 666, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  2. Dirk Krüger, 2009. "Inequality Trends for Germany in the Last Two Decades: A Tale of Two Countries," MEA discussion paper series 09184, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  3. Anders Bohlmark & Matthew J. Lindquist, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Income: Replication and Extension for Sweden," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 879-900, October.
  4. Bjorklund, Anders, 1993. "A Comparison between Actual Distributions of Annual and Lifetime Income: Sweden 1951-89," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(4), pages 377-86, December.
  5. Gernandt, Johannes & Pfeiffer, Friedhelm, 2006. "Rising Wage Inequality in Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-19 [rev.], ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  6. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128, February.
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  10. Ingvild Almås & Tarjei Havnes & Magne Mogstad, 2011. "Baby booming inequality? Demographic change and earnings inequality in Norway, 1967–2000," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 9(4), pages 629-650, December.
  11. Almås, Ingvild & Havnes, Tarjei & Mogstad, Magne, 2011. "Baby Booming Inequality? Demographic Change and Inequality in Norway, 1967{2004," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 6/2010, Department of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics.
  12. Sen, Amartya, 1973. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198281931.
  13. Steven Haider & Gary Solon, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variation in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1308-1320, September.
  14. 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.
  15. Richard V. Burkhauser & John G. Poupore, 1997. "A Cross-National Comparison Of Permanent Inequality In The United States And Germany," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(1), pages 10-17, February.
  16. Esfandiar Maasoumi & Mark Trede, 2001. "Comparing Income Mobility In Germany And The United States Using Generalized Entropy Mobility Measures," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 551-559, August.
  17. Peter Gottschalk & Sheldon Danziger, 2005. "Inequality Of Wage Rates, Earnings And Family Income In The United States, 1975-2002 ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(2), pages 231-254, 06.
  18. Mark M. Trede, 1998. "The age profile of mobility measures: an application to earnings in West Germany," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 397-409.
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Cited by:
  1. Carsten Schröder, 2012. "The sensitivity of distributional measures to the reference period of income," Kiel Working Papers 1777, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

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