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Recent Trends in Top Income Shares in the USA: Reconciling Estimates from March CPS and IRS Tax Return Data

  • Burkhauser, Richard V.

    ()

    (Cornell University)

  • Feng, Shuaizhang

    ()

    (Shanghai University of Finance and Economics)

  • Jenkins, Stephen P.

    ()

    (London School of Economics)

  • Larrimore, Jeff

    ()

    (Cornell University)

Although the majority of research on US income inequality trends is based on public-use March CPS data, a new wave of research using IRS tax return data reports substantially higher levels of inequality and faster growing trends. We show that these apparently inconsistent estimates are largely reconciled if the inequality measure and the income distribution are defined in the same way. Using internal CPS data for 1967-2006, we closely match IRS data-based estimates of top income shares reported by Piketty and Saez (2003). Our results imply that any inequality increases since 1993 are concentrated among the top 1 percent of the distribution.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4426.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4426
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  1. Stephen P. Jenkins & Shuaizhang Feng & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2007. "Using the P90/P10 Index to Measure US Inequality Trends with Current Population Survey Data: A View from Inside the Census Bureau Vaults," Working Papers 72, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  2. Mary C. Daly & Robert G. Valletta, 2006. "Inequality and Poverty in United States: The Effects of Rising Dispersion of Men's Earnings and Changing Family Behaviour," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(289), pages 75-98, 02.
  3. Andrew Leigh, 2007. "How Closely Do Top Income Shares Track Other Measures of Inequality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 562, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. 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.
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  7. Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen P. Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2011. "Estimating trends in US income inequality using the Current Population Survey: the importance of controlling for censoring," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 31998, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. 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.
  9. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Stephen A. Woodbury, 1990. "Taxes, Fringe Benefits and Faculty," NBER Working Papers 3455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  11. Austan Goolsbee, 1997. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," NBER Working Papers 6333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bishop, John A & Chiou, Jong-Rong & Formby, John P, 1994. "Truncation Bias and the Ordinal Evaluation of Income Inequality," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(1), pages 123-27, January.
  13. 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.
  14. Edward N. Wolff & Ajit Zacharias, 2006. "Household Wealth and the Measurement of Economic Well-Being in the United States," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_447, Levy Economics Institute.
  15. Feng, Shuaizhang & Burkhauser, Richard V. & Butler, J.S., 2006. "Levels and Long-Term Trends in Earnings Inequality: Overcoming Current Population Survey Censoring Problems Using the GB2 Distribution," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 24, pages 57-62, January.
  16. Jenkins, Stephen P. & Burkhauser, Richard V. & Feng, Shuaizhang & Larrimore, Jeff, 2009. "Measuring inequality using censored data: a multiple imputation approach," ISER Working Paper Series 2009-04, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  17. Stephen P. Jenkins, 2009. "Distributionally-Sensitive Inequality Indices And The Gb2 Income Distribution," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 392-398, 06.
  18. A. B. Atkinson, 2005. "Top incomes in the UK over the 20th century," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 325-343.
  19. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  20. Jagadeesh Sivadasan & Joel Slemrod, 2006. "Tax Law Changes, Income Shifting and Measured Wage Inequality: Evidence from India," NBER Working Papers 12240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Emmanuel Saez & Michael R. Veall, 2005. "The Evolution of High Incomes in Northern America: Lessons from Canadian Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 831-849, June.
  22. Edward N. Wolff, 1998. "Recent Trends in the Size Distribution of Household Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 131-150, Summer.
  23. Fichtenbaum, Rudy & Shahidi, Hushang, 1988. "Truncation Bias and the Measurement of Income Inequality," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 6(3), pages 335-37, July.
  24. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  25. Joel Slemrod, 1995. "High-Income Families and the Tax Changes of the 1980s: The Anatomy of Behavioral Response," NBER Working Papers 5218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Thomas Piketty, 2003. "Income Inequality in France, 1901-1998," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(5), pages 1004-1042, October.
  27. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2009. "From Bottom To Top: The Entire Income Distribution In Germany, 1992-2003," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 303-330, 06.
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