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Survey under-coverage of top incomes and estimation of inequality: what is the role of the UK’s SPI adjustment?

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  • Burkhauser, Richard V.
  • Hérault, Nicolas
  • Jenkins, Stephen P.
  • Wilkins, Roger

Abstract

Survey under-coverage of top incomes leads to bias in survey-based estimates of overall income inequality. Using income tax record data in combination with survey data is a potential approach to address the problem; we consider here the UK’s pioneering ‘SPI adjustment’ method that implements this idea. Since 1992, the principal income distribution series (reported annually in Households Below Average Income) has been based on household survey data in which the incomes of a small number of ‘very rich’ individuals are adjusted using information from ‘very rich’ individuals in personal income tax return data. We explain what the procedure involves, reveal the extent to which it addresses survey under-coverage of top incomes, and show how it affects estimates of overall income inequality. More generally, we assess whether the SPI adjustment is fit for purpose and consider whether variants of it could be employed by other countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Burkhauser, Richard V. & Hérault, Nicolas & Jenkins, Stephen P. & Wilkins, Roger, 2017. "Survey under-coverage of top incomes and estimation of inequality: what is the role of the UK’s SPI adjustment?," ISER Working Paper Series 2017-08, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:ese:iserwp:2017-08
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    File URL: https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser/2017-08.pdf
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Inequality and poverty
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2018-04-03 12:54:55

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