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The Evolution of Top Incomes in an Egalitarian Society: Sweden, 1903–2004

This study presents new homogenous series of top income shares in Sweden over the period 1903 to 2004. We find that, starting from higher levels of inequality than in other Western countries, the income share of the Swedish top decile drops sharply over the first eighty years of the century. The fall is almost entirely due to a dramatic drop in the top percentile, while the lower half of the top decile experiences virtually no change over this period. Most of the decrease takes place before the expansion of the welfare state, in fact, by 1950 Swedish top income shares were already lower than in other countries. In the past decades the Swedish top income shares developed very differently depending on whether capital gains are included or not. Including them, Sweden’s experience resembles that in the U.S. and the U.K. with sharp increases in top incomes, whereas excluding them Sweden looks more like the Continental European countries where top income shares have remained relatively constant. A possible interpretation of our results is that Sweden over the past 20 years has become a country where it is more important make the right investments than to have a high salary to become rich.

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File URL: http://swopec.hhs.se/hastef/papers/hastef0625.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 625.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 11 Apr 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0625
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. Anders Björklund & Mårten Palme, 2000. "The Evolution of Income Inequality During the Rise of the Swedish Welfare State1951 to 1973," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 26, pages 115-128.
  2. Emmanuel Saez, 2004. "Reported Incomes and Marginal Tax Rates, 1960-2000: Evidence and Policy Implications," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 18, pages 117-174 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2005. "Top Incomes in Sweden over the Twentieth Century," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 602, Stockholm School of Economics.
  4. Assar Lindbeck, 1997. "The Swedish Experiment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1273-1319, September.
  5. Henrekson, Magnus & Jakobsson, Ulf, 2003. "The Swedish Model of Corporate Ownership and Control in Transition," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 521, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 16 Apr 2003.
  6. Dew-Becker, Ian & Gordon, Robert J, 2005. "Where did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income," CEPR Discussion Papers 5419, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Anthony B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2007. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(262), pages 247-261, 09.
  8. Anders Bjorklund & Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Generating Equality and Eliminating Poverty, the Swedish Way," NBER Chapters, in: The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model, pages 33-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Lindbeck, Assar, 2006. "The Welfare State -- Background, Achievements, Problems," Working Paper Series 662, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  12. 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.
  13. Anthony B. Atkinson, 2005. "Comparing the Distribution of Top Incomes Across Countries," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 393-401, 04/05.
  14. Gustafsson, Bj rn & Johansson, Mats, 2003. "Steps toward equality: How and why income inequality in urban Sweden changed during the period 1925 1958," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 191-211, August.
  15. Apel,M., 1994. "An Expenditure-Based Estimate of Tax Evasion in Sweden," Papers 1, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  16. A. B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2005. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in New Zealand," CEPR Discussion Papers 503, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  17. Peter H. Lindert, . "Three Centuries Of Inequality In Britain And America," Department of Economics 97-09, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  18. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1953. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn53-1, 07.
  19. Dell, Fabien & Piketty, Thomas & Saez, Emmanuel, 2005. "Income and Wealth Concentration in Switzerland Over the 20th Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 5090, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Facundo Alvaredo & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "Income and wealth concentration in Spain in a historical and fiscal perspective," PSE Working Papers halshs-00587714, HAL.
  21. 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.
  22. Ian Dew-Becker & Robert J. Gordon, 2005. "Where Did Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(2), pages 67-150.
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