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Using the P90/P10 Index to Measure U.S. Inequality Trends with Current Population Survey Data: A View From Inside the Census Bureau Vaults

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  • Richard Burkhauser
  • Shuaizhang Feng
  • Stephen Jenkins

Abstract

The March Current Population Survey (CPS) is the primary data source for estimation of levels and trends in labor earnings and income inequality in the USA. Time-inconsistency problems related to top coding in theses data have led many researchers to use the ratio of the 90th and 10th percentiles of these distributions (P90/P10) rather than a more traditional summary measure of inequality. With access to public use and restricted-access internal CPS data, and bounding methods, we show that using P90/P10 does not completely obviate time inconsistency problems, especially for household income inequality trends. Using internal data, we create consistent cell mean values for all top-coded public use values that, when used with public use data, closely track inequality trends in labor earnings and household income using internal data. But estimates of longer-term inequality trends with these corrected data based on P90/P10 differ from those based on the Gini coefficient. The choice of inequality measure matters.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins, 2007. "Using the P90/P10 Index to Measure U.S. Inequality Trends with Current Population Survey Data: A View From Inside the Census Bureau Vaults," Working Papers 07-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:07-17
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    Cited by:

    1. Ziliak, James P. & Hardy, Bradley & Bollinger, Christopher, 2011. "Earnings volatility in America: Evidence from matched CPS," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 742-754.
    2. Frank A. Cowell & Emmanuel Flachaire, 2014. "Statistical Methods for Distributional Analysis," Working Papers halshs-01115996, HAL.
    3. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2009. "Recent Trends in Top Income Shares in the USA: Reconciling Estimates from March CPS and IRS Tax Return Data," Working Papers 09-26, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    4. Cecilia García-Peñalosa & Elsa Orgiazzi, 2013. "Factor Components of Inequality: A Cross-Country Study," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 59(4), pages 689-727, December.
    5. Bradbury, Katharine L., 2016. "Levels and trends in the income mobility of U.S. families, 1977−2012," Working Papers 16-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    6. Robert J. Gordon, 2009. "Misperceptions About the Magnitude and Timing of Changes in American Income Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15351, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Anna Fräßdorf & Markus M. Grabka & Johannes Schwarze, 2008. "The impact of household capital income on income inequality: A factor decomposition analysis for Great Britain, Germany and the USA," Working Papers 89, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    8. Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Jeff Larrimore, 2008. "Measuring Labor Earnings Inequality using Public-Use March Current Population Survey Data: The Value of Including Variances and Cell Means When Imputing Topcoded Values," NBER Working Papers 14458, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. repec:taf:applec:v:49:y:2017:i:12:p:1147-1163 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Riphahn, Regina T. & Schnitzlein, Daniel D., 2016. "Wage mobility in East and West Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 11-34.
    11. Markus Schneider, 2013. "Illustrating the Implications of How Inequality is Measured: Decomposing Earnings Inequality by Race and Gender," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 34(4), pages 476-514, December.
    12. Fräßdorf, Anna & Grabka, Markus M. & Schwarze, Johannes, 2011. "The Impact of Household Capital Income on Income Inequality - A Factor Decomposition Analysis for the UK, Germany and the USA," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 35-56.
    13. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2011. "Estimating trends in US income inequality using the Current Population Survey: the importance of controlling for censoring," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(3), pages 393-415, September.
    14. Andrew Hussey & Michael Jetter, 2017. "Long term trends in fair and unfair inequality in the United States," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(12), pages 1147-1163, March.
    15. Richard V. Burkhauser & Takashi Oshio & Ludmila Rovba, 2008. "How the Distribution of After-Tax Income Changed Over the 1990s Business Cycle: A Comparison of the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Japan," Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, vol. 17(1), pages 87-109, March.
    16. Olivier Bargain & Mathias Dolls & Herwig Immervoll & Dirk Neumann & Andreas Peichl & Nico Pestel & Sebastian Siegloch, 2011. "Tax policy and income inequality in the U.S., 1978—2009: A decomposition approach," Working Papers 215, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    17. Salvatore Morelli & Timothy Smeeding & Jeffrey Thompson, 2014. "Post-1970 Trends in Within-Country Inequality and Poverty: Rich and Middle Income Countries," CSEF Working Papers 356, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    18. Mike Brewer & Liam Wren-Lewis, 2016. "Accounting for Changes in Income Inequality: Decomposition Analyses for the UK, 1978–2008," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 78(3), pages 289-322, June.
    19. Jeff Larrimore & Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Laura Zayatz, 2008. "Consistent Cell Means for Topcoded Incomes in the Public Use March CPS (1976-2007)," Working Papers 08-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    20. Jones, Carol Adaire & Milkove, Daniel & Paszkiewicz, Laura, 2009. "Measuring Farm Household Well-Being: Comparing Consumption and Income-based Measures," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 49355, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    21. Kuhn, Moritz & Schularick, Moritz & Steins, Ulrike I., 2018. "Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016," Working Papers 9, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute.
    22. Jeffrey Thompson & Timothy M. Smeeding, 2011. "Inequality in the Great Recession: The Case of the United States," Working Papers wp271, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    23. Salvatore Morelli, 2014. "Banking Crises in the US: the Response of Top Income Shares in a Historical Perspective," CSEF Working Papers 359, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    24. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 2009. "The Rising Instability of U.S. Earnings," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 3-24, Fall.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality; income; earnings; Current Population Survey; decile ratio; Gini coefficient;

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • C8 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs

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