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Top Incomes in Sweden over the Twentieth Century

This paper presents homogenous series of top income shares in Sweden from 1903 to 2003 using individual tax returns data. We find that Swedish top incomes have developed more similarly to the US, Canada and the UK than to other continental European countries when capital gains are included. The top income shares are U-shaped over time, falling steadily until around 1980 when they start increasing again. Around 2000 they reach levels similar to those found around 1950, before the expansion of the Swedish welfare state. However, unlike the Anglo-Saxon countries, where the recent increases were mainly driven by increased wage earnings inequality, Swedish top income shares have risen almost exclusively due to capital gains, a finding consistent with relatively high marginal wage taxes and internationally high price increases in financial and real estate markets since 1980. When excluding capital gains the increase in top income shares since 1980 almost disappears and the Swedish experience looks more like that of continental Europe. Furthermore, we also find that the largest decrease of top income shares happens between 1935 and the beginning of the 1950s, but not (as in the US and in France) during the war years, but before 1939 and after 1945 suggesting that the Swedish development was more driven by policy than by exogenous shocks.

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File URL: http://swopec.hhs.se/hastef/papers/hastef0602.pdf
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Paper provided by Stockholm School of Economics in its series SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance with number 602.

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Length: 78 pages
Date of creation: 15 Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0602
Contact details of provider: Postal: The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, 113 83 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-(0)8-736 90 00
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Web page: http://www.hhs.se/
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  1. Feenberg, D.R. & Poterba, J.M., 1992. "Income Inequality and the Incomes of Very High Income Taxpayers: Evidence from Tax Returns," Working papers 92-16, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Anthony B. Atkinson & Wiemer Salverda, 2005. "Top Incomes In The Netherlands And The United Kingdom Over The 20th Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(4), pages 883-913, 06.
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