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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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  • Burkhauser, Richard V.
  • Feng, Shuaizhang
  • Jenkins, Stephen P.
  • Larrimore, Jeff

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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Social and Economic Research in its series ISER Working Paper Series with number 2009-27.

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Date of creation: 14 Sep 2009
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Publication status: published
Handle: RePEc:ese:iserwp:2009-27

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  1. Stephen P. Jenkins & Shuaizhang Feng & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2007. "Using the P90/P10 Index to Measure US Inequality Trends with Current Population Survey Data: A View from Inside the Census Bureau Vaults," Working Papers 72, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
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  3. 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.
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  22. Fabien Dell, 2005. "Top Incomes in Germany and Switzerland Over the Twentieth Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 412-421, 04/05.
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