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The rise in lifetime earnings inequality among men

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  • Stephanie Aaronson
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    Abstract

    Recent trends in lifetime earnings inequality in the United States have been barely explored, despite the fact that lifetime earnings are a better measure of access to resources than the more widely studied annual earnings. This paper demonstrates that lifetime earnings inequality has increased over the past 30 years. We first explore how starting wages and wage growth have changed over time and link the changes to trends in lifetime earnings and the lifetime skill-premium. We then calculated a broader measure of lifetime earnings inequality and show that since the late 1960s, lifetime earnings inequality has increased by a third. Between the late 1960s and mid-1970s a rise in within-education-group inequality more than accounts for the increase; since then the growth in between-education-group inequality accounted for a majority of the rise. These results are consonant with the data on starting wages and wage growth. Finally, we show that the increase in inequality has been largely driven by greater dispersion in hourly wages, although declining hours of work among low-education young men did play a role. The analysis uses data from the March Current Population Survey as well as matched CPS data. Thus we demonstrate how repeated cross-sections and short panels of data can be used to examine issues usually reserved for long panels.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2002-21.

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    Date of creation: 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2002-21

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    Keywords: Wages ; Income distribution;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

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    1. Creedy, J., 1995. "Lifetime Versus Annual Income Distribution," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 478, The University of Melbourne.
    2. Fichtenbaum, Rudy & Shahidi, Hushang, 1988. "Truncation Bias and the Measurement of Income Inequality," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 6(3), pages 335-37, July.
    3. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
    4. Robert G. Wood, 1995. "Marriage Rates and Marriageable Men: A Test of the Wilson Hypothesis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 163-193.
    5. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1, October.
    6. Lillard, Lee A, 1977. "Inequality: Earnings vs. Human Wealth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 42-53, March.
    7. Welch, Finis, 1997. "Wages and Participation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S77-103, January.
    8. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Friedman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1997. "How Much Do Immigration and Trade Affect Labor Market Outcomes?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 1-90.
    9. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
    10. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
    11. Shorrocks, Anthony, 1978. "Income inequality and income mobility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 376-393, December.
    12. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn & Jane Waldfogel, 2000. "Understanding Young Women's Marriage Decisions: The Role of Labor and Marriage Market Conditions," NBER Working Papers 7510, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
    14. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1990. "Empirical Age-Earnings Profiles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 202-29, April.
    15. Bishop, John A & Chiou, Jong-Rong & Formby, John P, 1994. "Truncation Bias and the Ordinal Evaluation of Income Inequality," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(1), pages 123-27, January.
    16. Parsons, Donald O, 1978. "The Autocorrelation of Earnings, Human Wealth Inequality, and Income Contingent Loans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 551-69, November.
    17. Moshe Buchinsky & Jennifer Hunt, 1999. "Wage Mobility In The United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 351-368, August.
    18. Hungerford, Thomas L, 1993. "U.S. Income Mobility in the Seventies and Eighties," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(4), pages 403-17, December.
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