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Top Incomes in the United States and Canada Over the Twentieth Century

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  • Emmanuel Saez

    (University of California, Berkeley,)

Abstract

This paper presents top income shares series for the United States and Canada over the 20th century. In both countries, top income shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century, with a precipitous drop during World War II, with no recovery in the following decades. Since the late 1970s, however, top income shares have been increasing dramatically and the very top shares are now almost as high as in the prewar era. The drop in top income shares in the first part of the century is mainly a capital income phenomenon but the recent increase in top income shares is the consequence of a surge in top wages and salaries. The United States reduced significantly marginal tax rates for high incomes over the last 40 years but Canada did not. Therefore, the almost identical upward pattern of top income shares in both countries cannot be solely explained by changes in tax avoidance behavior. Mobility at the top of the income distribution has been very stable in Canada in spite of the surge in annual income concentration. Thus the increase in annual top income shares in Northern America will likely translate into an increase in permanent income concentration of similar magnitude. (JEL: H24, H31, N32) Copyright (c) 2005 The European Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Emmanuel Saez, 2005. "Top Incomes in the United States and Canada Over the Twentieth Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 402-411, 04/05.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:3:y:2005:i:2-3:p:402-411
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Christina Anselmann & Hagen M. Krämer, 2012. "Completing the Bathtub?: The Development of Top Incomes in Germany, 1907-2007," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 451, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Andreas Peichl & Nico Pestel, 2013. "Multidimensional affluence: theory and applications to Germany and the US," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(32), pages 4591-4601, November.
    3. Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico, 2010. "Multidimensional Measurement of Richness: Theory and an Application to Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 4825, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Andreas Peichl & Thilo Schaefer & Christoph Scheicher, 2010. "Measuring Richness And Poverty: A Micro Data Application To Europe And Germany," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 56(3), pages 597-619, September.
    5. Petri Böckerman, 2013. "Top Income Shares and Mortality: Evidence from Advanced Countries," Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, vol. 22(1), pages 57-69, March.
    6. Kontbay-Busun, Sine & Peichl, Andreas, 2014. "Multidimensional affluence in income and wealth in the eurozone: A cross country comparison using the HFCS," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-124, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    7. Souza, Pedro H.G.F., 2013. "The Decline in Inequality In Brazil, 2003-2009: The Role Of The State," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt33q062zj, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    8. Schrecker, Ted, 2007. "Intra-metropolitan health disparities in Canada: Studying how and why globalization matters, and what to do about it," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt3z7544g1, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
    9. Florencia Torche, 2010. "Educational assortative mating and economic inequality: A comparative analysis of three Latin American countries," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(2), pages 481-502, May.
    10. Jonathan A. Schwabish, 2006. "Earnings Inequality and High Earners: Changes During and after the Stock Market Boom of the 1990s: Working Paper 2006-06," Working Papers 17738, Congressional Budget Office.
    11. Gustafsson, Björn Anders & Jansson, Birgitta, 2007. "Top Incomes in Sweden during Three-Quarters of a Century: A Micro Data Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 2672, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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