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The Distribution of Top Incomes in New Zealand

Using taxation statistics, we estimate the income share held by top income groups in New Zealand over the period 1921-2002. We find that the income share of the richest fell during the 1930s, rose again after World War II, and steadily declined from the late-1950s until the mid-1980s. From the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s, top income shares rose rapidly. We also estimate shares-within-shares, and find that the income share of the super-rich as a share of the rich followed a similar trajectory, rising sharply over the past quarter-century. Throughout the twentieth century, top income shares in New Zealand followed a very similar pattern to top income shares in Australia. We speculate that the reduction in top marginal tax rates, the deregulation of the economy, and the internationalisation of the market for English-speaking CEOs may have contributed to the recent rise in top income shares.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 503.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:503
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Web page: http://rse.anu.edu.au/cepr.php
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  1. Emmanuel Saez & Michael R. Veall, 2003. "The Evolution of High Incomes in Canada, 1920-2000," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 99, McMaster University.
  2. Atkinson, Tony & Leigh, Andrew, 2010. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Five Anglo-Saxon Countries over the Twentieth Century," IZA Discussion Papers 4937, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Rankin, Keith, 1992. "New Zealand's Gross National Product: 1859-1939," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 38(1), pages 49-69, March.
  4. Dean R. Hyslop & David C. Maré, 2005. "Understanding New Zealand's Changing Income Distribution, 1983-1998: A Semi-parametric Analysis," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 469-495, 08.
  5. A.B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2006. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 514, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  6. A. B. Atkinson, 2005. "Top incomes in the UK over the 20th century," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 325-343.
  7. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  8. Alex Bakker & John Creedy, 1999. "Macroeconomic variables and income inequality in New Zealand: An exploration using conditional mixture distributions," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(2), pages 59-79.
  9. Lewis Evans & Arthur Grimes & Bryce Wilkinson, 1996. "Economic Reform in New Zealand 1984-95: The Pursuit of Efficiency," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1856-1902, December.
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