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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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Author Info

  • Burkhauser, Richard V.

    ()
    (Cornell University)

  • Feng, Shuaizhang

    ()
    (Shanghai University of Finance and Economics)

  • Jenkins, Stephen P.

    ()
    (London School of Economics)

  • Larrimore, Jeff

    ()
    (Cornell University)

Abstract

Although the majority of research on US income inequality trends is based on public-use March CPS data, a new wave of research using IRS tax return data reports substantially higher levels of inequality and faster growing trends. We show that these apparently inconsistent estimates are largely reconciled if the inequality measure and the income distribution are defined in the same way. Using internal CPS data for 1967-2006, we closely match IRS data-based estimates of top income shares reported by Piketty and Saez (2003). Our results imply that any inequality increases since 1993 are concentrated among the top 1 percent of the distribution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4426.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4426

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Keywords: IRS tax return data; US income inequality; top income shares; March CPS;

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  1. A.B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2006. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 514, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  2. Stephen Jenkins & Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Jeff Larrimore, 2009. "Measuring Inequality Using Censored Data: A Multiple Imputation Approach," Working Papers 09-05, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. 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.
  4. Thomas Piketty, 2003. "Income Inequality in France, 1901-1998," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(5), pages 1004-1042, October.
  5. Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2009. "Using The P90-P10 Index To Measure U.S. Inequality Trends With Current Population Survey Data: A View From Inside The Census Bureau Vaults," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(1), pages 166-185, 03.
  6. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2008. "Estimating Trends in U.S. Income Inequality Using the Current Population Survey: The Importance of Controlling for Censoring," Working Papers 08-25, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective," NBER Working Papers 11955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sivadasan, Jagadeesh & Slemrod, Joel, 2008. "Tax law changes, income-shifting and measured wage inequality: Evidence from India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2199-2224, October.
  9. Daniel Feenberg & James Poterba, 1992. "Income Inequality and the Incomes of Very High Income Taxpayers: Evidence from Tax Returns," NBER Working Papers 4229, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Stephen A. Woodbury, 1990. "Taxes, Fringe Benefits and Faculty," NBER Working Papers 3455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. Stephen P. Jenkins, 2009. "Distributionally-Sensitive Inequality Indices And The Gb2 Income Distribution," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 392-398, 06.
  13. 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.
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  15. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2009. "From Bottom To Top: The Entire Income Distribution In Germany, 1992-2003," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 303-330, 06.
  16. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Feng, Shuaizhang & Jenkins, Stephen P., 2007. "Using the P90/P10 index to measure US inquality trends with current population survey data: a view from inside the Census Bureau vaults," ISER Working Paper Series 2007-14, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  20. 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.
  21. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  22. Joel Slemrod, 1995. "High-Income Families and the Tax Changes of the 1980s: The Anatomy of Behavioral Response," NBER Working Papers 5218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
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