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The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia

  • A.B. Atkinson
  • Andrew Leigh

    ()

    (SPEAR Centre, RSSS, ANU)

Using taxation statistics, we estimate the income share held by top income groups in Australia over the period 1921-2002. We find that the income share of the richest fell from the 1920s until the mid-1940s, rose briefly in the post-war 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 fifty 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 CEOs. We speculate that changes in top income shares may have been affected by top marginal tax rates, skill-biased technological change, social norms about inequality, and the internationalisation of the market for English-speaking CEOs.

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File URL: http://cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP514.pdf
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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 514.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:514
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Web page: http://rse.anu.edu.au/cepr.php
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  1. 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.
  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 423-42, December.
  3. 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.
  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. 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.
  7. Norris, Keith, 1977. "The Dispersion of Earnings in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 53(144), pages 475-89, December.
  8. Meagher, G A & Dixon, Peter B, 1986. "Analyzing Income Distribution in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 62(179), pages 427-41, December.
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