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The Evolution of Top Incomes in Switzerland over the 20th Century

  • Christoph A. Schaltegger
  • Christoph Gorgas

We study the income concentration in the Swiss federation over the course of the 20th century using federal income tax statistics. The results suggest that top incomes in Switzerland evolved over time rather remaining constant across different income shares. Income concentration peaked during the 1940s, with a slight downward trend until the 1990s. Over the last 15 years, top incomes have recovered. In contrast, the evolution of income concentration is much more heterogeneous on the sub-federal level for the 26 cantons because of the federalist constitution, which has a decentralized taxing power. Consequently, top incomes in some cantons have a downward trend; others show a fall and rise of top incomes over the century, as exemplified by the Kuznets’ hypothesis; some develop rather constantly; and some cantons even produce a striking upward trend.

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Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) in its series CREMA Working Paper Series with number 2011-06.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2011-06
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  1. Thomas Piketty, 2003. "Income Inequality in France, 1901-1998," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(5), pages 1004-1042, October.
  2. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1953. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Savings," NBER Chapters, in: Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings, pages 171-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 200-205, May.
  4. Roine, Jesper & Vlachos, Jonas & Waldenström, Daniel, 2009. "The long-run determinants of inequality: What can we learn from top income data?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 974-988, August.
  5. Fabien Dell, 2005. "Top Incomes in Germany and Switzerland Over the Twentieth Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 412-421, 04/05.
  6. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2010. "Top Incomes: A Global Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286898, March.
  7. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
  8. Simon Kuznets, 1950. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn50-1, 07.
  9. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2007. "Top Incomes Over the Twentieth Century: A Contrast Between Continental European and English-Speaking Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286881, March.
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