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Mobility and Gender at the Top Tail of the Earnings Distribution

Author

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  • Ross Finnie

    (Statistics Canada)

  • Ian Irvine

    (Concordia University)

Abstract

The increasing share of the top fractile in the earnings distributions of several Anglo- Saxon heritage economies since the 1970s has been dramatic, and well documented. To date, however, little is known about the socio-economic origins and gender composition of the very top tail in the modern era. This paper takes a first step in filling some of the holes in our knowledge. We use a tax-filer data base for Canada for the period 1983-2003 that contains about eighty million observations. We show first that male earners in the top one thousandth of the distribution come very disproportionately from families with incomes in the top decile. In contrast, individuals in the remaining part of the top centile have more dispersed socio-economic origins. Second we show that female participation in the top fractiles has been very low, and that growth in participation has been slow yet definite. In contrast, female earnings in this echelon are almost on par with male earnings. Third, we show that there is an enormous asymmetry between the genders when it comes to spousal earnings: high-earning women have very high-earning spouses, but not vice versa. ‘Secondary males’ have earnings levels almost ten times as high as ‘secondary females’, suggesting that, even at this extremely elevated earnings level there is truth to the adage about who lies ‘behind’ successful individuals. Finally, it is illustrated that the earnings concentration that has characterised the last three decades did not change with the end of the ‘tech boom’ in the year 2000.

Suggested Citation

  • Ross Finnie & Ian Irvine, 2006. "Mobility and Gender at the Top Tail of the Earnings Distribution," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 37(2), pages 149-173.
  • Handle: RePEc:eso:journl:v:37:y:2006:i:2:p:149-173
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Björklund, Anders & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2012. "Intergenerational top income mobility in Sweden: Capitalist dynasties in the land of equal opportunity?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(5), pages 474-484.
    2. Catherine Deri-Armstrong, 2009. "The Long-term Effects of Maternal Employment on Daughters’ Later Labour Force Participation and Earnings," Working Papers 0914E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    3. Lemieux, Thomas & Riddell, W. Craig, 2015. "Top Incomes in Canada: Evidence from the Census," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2015-12, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 07 Jul 2015.
    4. Callan, Tim & Doorley, Karina & McTague, Alyvia, 2020. "Top Incomes in Ireland: Reconciling Evidence from Tax Records and Household Survey Data," IZA Discussion Papers 13585, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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