Inequality in current and lifetime income
AbstractStandard theory of intertemporal choice predicts that people smooth out life-cycle changes in income by borrowing and saving, such that their standard of living in any given year depends more on lifetime income than on that year’s income. Yet, contemporary empirical studies of income inequality are typically based on observations of income for one or a few years. This empirical simplification is due to the simple fact that researchers seldom have access to data on long-run or lifetime income. In this paper, we exploit a unique data set with nearly career-long income histories to provide novel evidence on inequality in current and lifetime income. We apply these results to assess the role of so-called life-cycle bias in empirical analysis of income inequality that uses current income variables as proxies for lifetime income. Our results suggest that income inequality increases over the working lifespan, and inequality in current income at age 60 is more than twice the inequality in lifetime income. Another key finding is that inequality in lifetime income is much lower than what cross-sectional estimates of inequality suggest. This means that we may need to reconsider how unequal individuals’ living standard actually is.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Research Department of Statistics Norway in its series Discussion Papers with number 726.
Date of creation: Dec 2012
Date of revision:
Income inequality; lifetime income; current income; life-cycle;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
- I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare and Poverty - - - General Welfare
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2012-12-22 (All new papers)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Manudeep Bhuller & Magne Mogstad & Kjell G.Salvanes, 2011.
"Life-cycle bias and the returns to schooling in current and lifetime earnings,"
666, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
- Bhuller, Manudeep & Mogstad, Magne & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2011. "Life-Cycle Bias and the Returns to Schooling in Current and Lifetime Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 5788, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Milton Friedman, 1957. "Introduction to "A Theory of the Consumption Function"," NBER Chapters, in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Aaberge, Rolf & Björklund, Anders & Jäntti, Markus & Palme, Mårten & Pedersen, Peder & Smith, Nina & Wennemo, Tom, 1996.
"Income Inequality and Income Mobility in the Scandinavian Countries Compared to the United States,"
Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance
98, Stockholm School of Economics, revised Aug 2002.
- Aaberge, Rolf, et al, 2002. "Income Inequality and Income Mobility in the Scandinavian Countries Compared to the United States," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(4), pages 443-69, December.
- Rolf Aaberge & Anders Björklund & Markus Jäntti & Mårten Palme & Peder J. Pedersen & Nina Smith & Tom Wennemo, 1996. "Income Inequality and Income Mobility in the Scandinavian Countries Compared to the United States," Discussion Papers 168, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
- Milton Friedman, 1957. "A Theory of the Consumption Function," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie57-1, December.
- Stephen P. Jenkins & Philippe Van Kerm, 2006.
"Trends in income inequality, pro-poor income growth, and income mobility,"
Oxford Economic Papers,
Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 531-548, July.
- Jenkins, Stephen P. & Van Kerm, Philippe, 2003. "Trends in Income Inequality, Pro-Poor Income Growth and Income Mobility," IZA Discussion Papers 904, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Jenkins, Stephen P. & Van Kerm, Philippe, 2003. "Trends in income inequality, pro-poor income growth and income mobility," IRISS Working Paper Series 2003-11, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
- Stephen P. Jenkins & Philippe VanKerm, 2003. "Trends in Income Inequality, Pro-Poor Income Growth and Income Mobility," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 377, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
- Anders Bohlmark & Matthew J. Lindquist, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Income: Replication and Extension for Sweden," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 879-900, October.
- Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281.
- Richard V. Burkhauser & John G. Poupore, 1997. "A Cross-National Comparison Of Permanent Inequality In The United States And Germany," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(1), pages 10-17, February.
- Øivind Anti Nilsen & Kjell Vaage & Arild Aakvik & Karl Jacobsen, 2012. "Intergenerational Earnings Mobility Revisited: Estimates Based on Lifetime Earnings," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(1), pages 1-23, 03.
- Rolf Aaberge, 2006.
"Gini’s Nuclear Family,"
491, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
- Jan Brenner, 2009.
"Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings – Evidence for German Natives and Guest Workers,"
Ruhr Economic Papers
0095, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
- Brenner, Jan, 2010. "Life-cycle variations in the association between current and lifetime earnings: Evidence for German natives and guest workers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 392-406, April.
- Shorrocks, Anthony, 1978. "Income inequality and income mobility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 376-393, December.
- Steven Haider & Gary Solon, 2006.
"Life-Cycle Variation in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings,"
NBER Working Papers
11943, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Steven Haider & Gary Solon, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variation in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1308-1320, September.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (J Bruusgaard).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.