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The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia

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  • ANTHONY B. ATKINSON
  • ANDREW LEIGH

Abstract

Using taxation statistics, we estimate the income share held by top income groups in Australia over the period 1921-2003. We find that the income share of the richest fell from the 1920s until the mid-1940s, rose briefly in the postwar decade, and then declined until the early 1980s. During the 1980s and 1990s, top income shares rose rapidly. At the start of the twenty-first century, the income share of the richest was higher than it had been at any point in the previous 50 years. Among top income groups, recent decades have also seen a rise in the share of top income accruing to the super-rich. Trends in top income shares are similar to those observed among other elite groups, such as judges, politicians, top bureaucrats and chief executive officers. Copyright © 2007 The Economic Society of Australia.

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2007. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(262), pages 247-261, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecorec:v:83:y:2007:i:262:p:247-261
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. H. F. Lydall, 1965. "The Dispersion Of Employment Incomes In Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 41(96), pages 549-569, December.
    2. Cox, J P, 1976. "The National Survey of Income, Income Distribution and Temporary Poverty," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 52(140), pages 423-442, December.
    3. Meagher, G A & Dixon, Peter B, 1986. "Analyzing Income Distribution in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 62(179), pages 427-441, December.
    4. Peter Saunders & Garry Hobbes, 1988. "Income Inequality in Australia in an International Comparative Perspective," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 21(3), pages 25-34.
    5. Peter Saunders, 1998. "Household Budgets and Income Distribution over the Longer Term: Evidence for Australia," Discussion Papers 0089, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
    6. Norris, Keith, 1977. "The Dispersion of Earnings in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 53(144), pages 475-489, December.
    7. Saunders, Peter & Stott, Helen & Hobbes, Garry, 1991. "Income Inequality in Australia and New Zealand: International Comparisons and Recent Trends," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(1), pages 63-79, March.
    8. Peter Saunders & Garry Hobbes, 1988. "Income Inequality in Australia in an International Comparative Perspective," Discussion Papers 004, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania

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