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The Increase in Income Cyclicality of High-Income Households and Its Relation to the Rise in Top Income Shares

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  • Jonathan A. Parker

    (Northwestern University)

  • Annette Vissing-Jorgensen

    (Northwestern University)

Abstract

We document a large increase in the cyclicality of the incomes of high-income households, coinciding with the rise in their share of aggregate income. In the U.S., since top income shares began to rise rapidly in the early 1980s, incomes of those in the top 1 percent of the income distribution have averaged 14 times average income and been 2.4 times more cyclical. Before the early 1980s, incomes of the top 1 percent were slightly less cyclical than average. The increase in income cyclicality at the top is to a large extent due to increases in the share and the cyclicality of their earned income. The high cyclicality among top incomes is found for households without stock options; following the same households over time; for post-tax, post-transfer income; and for consumption. We study cyclicality throughout the income distribution and reconcile with earlier work. Furthermore, greater top income share is associated with greater top income cyclicality across recent decades, across subgroups of top income households, and, in changes, across countries. This suggests a common cause. We show theoretically that increases in the production scale of the most talented can raise both top incomes and their cyclicality.
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Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan A. Parker & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2010. "The Increase in Income Cyclicality of High-Income Households and Its Relation to the Rise in Top Income Shares," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(2 (Fall)), pages 1-70.
  • Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:41:y:2010:i:2010-02:p:1-70
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    income; cyclicality; households;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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