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Changing American Earnings Distributions: One-half Century of Experience


  • Bishop, John A
  • Formby, John P
  • Thistle, Paul D


Recent increases in earnings inequality have been described as "enormous." Is it that we are experiencing a unique shift toward greater inequality or are we returning to a more normal state of affairs for the American economy? The recent availability of six decades of data together with important new developments in the theory and measurement of inequality invite a renewed look at the changes in earnings inequality over the past half century. Our findings for male earnings suggest a dramatic contraction in inequality after 1939 followed by a steady rise in earnings inequality through 1989. Focusing on per capita incomes as opposed to earnings eliminates much of the trend toward rising inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Bishop, John A & Formby, John P & Thistle, Paul D, 1997. "Changing American Earnings Distributions: One-half Century of Experience," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 501-514.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:empeco:v:22:y:1997:i:4:p:501-14

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    1. repec:col:000093:015846 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Juan Mora & Ana Moro-Egido, 2012. "Analyzing motives for money-transfers within families: the role of transfers for education," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 357-378, August.

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