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Deconstructing Income and Income Inequality Measures: A Crosswalk from Market Income to Comprehensive Income

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Listed:
  • Philip Armour
  • Richard V. Burkhauser
  • Jeff Larrimore

Abstract

Recent research on levels and trends in the United States in income inequality vary substantially in how they measure income. We show the sensitivity of alternative income measures in capturing income trends using a unified data set. Focusing solely on market income or including realized taxable capital gains based on IRS tax return data in more comprehensive household income measures will dramatically increase inequality growth compared to capital gains measures more in keeping with Haig-Simons principles. Using a measure of yearly accrued capital gains dramatically reduces observed growth in income inequality across the distribution, but also equalizes income growth since 1989.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip Armour & Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore, 2013. "Deconstructing Income and Income Inequality Measures: A Crosswalk from Market Income to Comprehensive Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 173-177, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:3:p:173-77
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.3.173
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen P. Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2012. "Recent Trends in Top Income Shares in the United States: Reconciling Estimates from March CPS and IRS Tax Return Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 371-388, May.
    2. Timothy M. Smeeding & Jeffrey P. Thompson, 2011. "Recent Trends in Income Inequality," Research in Labor Economics, in: Herwig Immervoll & Andreas Peichl & Konstantinos Tatsiramos (ed.), Who Loses in the Downturn? Economic Crisis, Employment and Income Distribution, volume 32, pages 1-50, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies

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