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The Evolution of Income Concentration in Japan, 1886-2002: Evidence from Income Tax Statistics

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  • Chiaki Moriguchi
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper studies the evolution of income concentration in Japan from 1886 to 2002 by constructing long-run series of top income shares and top wage income shares, using income tax statistics. We find that (1) income concentration was extremely high throughout the pre-WWII period during which the nation underwent rapid industrialization; (2) a drastic de-concentration of income at the top took place in 1938-1945; (3) income concentration has remained low throughout the post-WWII period despite the high economic growth; and (4) top income composition in Japan has shifted dramatically from capital income to employment income over the course of the 20th century. We attribute the precipitous fall in income concentration during WWII primarily to the collapse of capital income due to wartime regulations and inflation. We argue that the change in the institutional structure under the occupational reforms made the one-time income de-concentration difficult to reverse. In contrast to the sharp increase in wage income inequality observed in the United States since 1970, the top wage income shares in Japan have remained remarkably stable over the recent decades. We show that the change in technology or tax policies alone cannot account for the comparative experience of Japan and the United States. Instead we suggest that institutional factors such as corporate governance and union structure are important determinants of wage income inequality.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12558.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Publication status: published as Chiaki Moriguchi & Emmanuel Saez, 2008. "The Evolution of Income Concentration in Japan, 1886-2005: Evidence from Income Tax Statistics," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 713-734, 07.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12558

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Reto Foellmi & Tobias Wuergler & Josef Zweimüller, 2009. "The Macroeconomics of Model T," IEW - Working Papers 459, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2009. "The distribution of wealth and fiscal policy in economies with finitely lived agents," NBER Working Papers 14730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jesper Roine & Daniel Waldenström, 2012. "On The Role Of Capital Gains In Swedish Income Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 58(3), pages 569-587, 09.
  4. 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.
  5. Ross Finnie & Ian Irvine, 2006. "Mobility and Gender at the Top Tail of the Earnings Distribution," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 37(2), pages 149-173.
  6. Claudia Sanhueza & Ricardo Mayer, 2011. "Top Incomes in Chile using 50 years of household surveys : 1957-2007," Estudios de Economia, University of Chile, Department of Economics, vol. 38(1 Year 20), pages 169-193, June.
  7. Frank Cowell & M.P. Victoria-Feser, 2007. "Modelling Lorenz curves: robust and semi-parametric issues," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2694, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Fumio Ohtake & Shinji Takenaka, 2007. "Attitudes toward the Income Gap: Japan-U.S. Comparison," ISER Discussion Paper 0687, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  9. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
  10. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2006. "The distribution of wealth and redistributive policies," 2006 Meeting Papers 368, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Jesper Roine & Daniel Waldenström, 2011. "Common Trends and Shocks to Top Incomes: A Structural Breaks Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 832-846, August.
  12. Jean-Pascal Bassino & Kyoji Fukao & Ralph Paprzycki & Tokihiko Settsu & Tangjun Yuan, 2010. "Regional Inequality and Industrial Structures in Pre-War Japan: An Analysis Based on New Prefectural GDP Estimates," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd10-138, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

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