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The Evolution of High Incomes in Canada, 1920-2000

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  • Emmanuel Saez
  • Michael R. Veall

Abstract

This paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income from 1920 to 2000 in Canada using personal income tax return data. Top income shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century, with a precipitous drop during World War II, followed by a slower decline until 1970. Since the late 1970s, top income shares have been increasing steadily and the very top shares are now as high as in the pre-war era. As in the United States, the recent increase in top income shares is the consequence of a surge in top wages and salaries. As a result, series on the composition of incomes within the top income groups from 1946 to 2000 show a dramatic increase in the share of wages and salaries. The parallel evolution of top income shares in Canada and the United States, associated with much more modest marginal tax rate cuts in Canada, suggests that the upward trend in top shares in Canada since the late 1970s cannot be explained by tax cuts. Further evidence suggests that the upward trend in Canada derives from the United States, perhaps because many Canadians have an emigration option. A data appendix for this paper is available.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9607.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
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Publication status: published as Saez, Emmanuel and Michael R. Veall. "The Evolution Of High Incomes In Northern America: Lessons From Canadian Evidence," American Economic Review, 2005, v95(2,May), 831-849.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9607

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  1. Simon Kuznets, 1950. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn50-1, October.
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  4. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
  5. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
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Cited by:
  1. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2006. "The distribution of wealth and redistributive policies," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001162, David K. Levine.
  2. Osberg, Lars, 2013. "Instability implications of increasing inequality: Evidence from North America," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 918-930.
  3. Andrew Leigh, 2004. "Deriving Long-Run Inequality Series from Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 476, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. 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.
  5. Rolf Aaberge & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2008. "Top Incomes in Norway," Discussion Papers 552, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  6. Heiko Müller & Caren Sureth, 2009. "Income tax statistics analysis: A comparison of microsimulation versus group simulation," International Journal of Microsimulation, Interational Microsimulation Association, vol. 2(1), pages 32-48.
  7. Robert Andersen & M. McIvor, 2013. "GINI Country Report: Growing Inequalities and their Impacts in Canada," GINI Country Reports canada, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
  8. A. B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2005. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in New Zealand," CEPR Discussion Papers 503, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

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