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Income Inequality in France 1901-98

  • Piketty, Thomas

The objective of this research is to document and to explain trends in inequality in 20th century France. Data from income tax returns (1915-98), wage tax returns (1919-98) and inheritance tax returns (1902-94), is used in order to compute fully homogeneous, yearly estimates of income inequality, wage inequality and wealth inequality. The main conclusion is that the decline in income inequality that took place during the first half of the 20th century was mostly accidental. In France and possibly in a number of other developed countries as well wage inequality has actually been extremely stable in the long run, and the secular decline in income inequality is for the most part a capital income phenomenon. Holders of very large fortunes were severely hit by major shocks during the 1914-45 period, and were never able to fully recover from these shocks, probably because of the dynamic effects of progressive taxation on capital accumulation and pre-tax income inequality.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2876.

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Date of creation: Jul 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2876
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  1. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
  2. Daniel R. Feenberg & James M. Poterba, 1993. "Income Inequality and the Incomes of Very High-Income Taxpayers: Evidence from Tax Returns," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 7, pages 145-177 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1991. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid- Century," NBER Working Papers 3817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lindert, Peter H., 2000. "Three centuries of inequality in Britain and America," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 3, pages 167-216 Elsevier.
  5. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1999. "The Savers-Spenders Theory of Fiscal Policy," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1888, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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