IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/11955.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective

Author

Listed:
  • Thomas Piketty
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper summarizes the main findings of the recent studies that have constructed top income and wealth shares series over the century for a number of countries using tax statistics. Most countries experience a dramatic drop in top income shares in the first part of the century due to a precipitous drop in large wealth holdings during the wars and depression shocks. Top income shares do not recover in the immediate post war decades. However, over the last 30 years, top income shares have increased substantially in English speaking countries but not at all in continental Europe countries or Japan. This increase is due to an unprecedented surge in top wage incomes starting in the 1970s and accelerating in the 1990s. As a result, top wage earners have replaced capital income earners at the top of the income distribution in English speaking countries. We discuss the proposed explanations and the main questions that remain open.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective," NBER Working Papers 11955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11955
    Note: PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11955.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1953. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings (1953)," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn53-1.
    3. 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.
    4. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1953. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Savings," NBER Chapters, in: Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings (1953), pages 171-218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. 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.
    2. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Christoph Gorgas, 2011. "The Evolution of Top Incomes in Switzerland over the 20th Century," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 147(IV), pages 479-519, December.
    3. Roine, Jesper & Waldenstrom, Daniel, 2008. "The evolution of top incomes in an egalitarian society: Sweden, 1903-2004," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 366-387, February.
    4. Katharina Jenderny, 2016. "Mobility of Top Incomes in Germany," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(2), pages 245-265, June.
    5. Jesper Roine & Daniel Waldenström, 2011. "Common Trends and Shocks to Top Incomes: A Structural Breaks Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 832-846, August.
    6. Antoine Bozio & Bertrand Garbinti & Jonathan Goupille-Lebret & Malka Guillot & Thomas Piketty, 2020. "Predistribution vs. Redistribution: Evidence from France and the U.S," Institut des Politiques Publiques halshs-03022092, HAL.
    7. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2007. "From Bottom to Top: The Entire Distribution of Market Income in Germany, 1992-2001," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 51, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    8. Thomas Blanchet & Bertrand Garbinti & Jonathan Goupille-Lebret & Clara Martínez-Toledano, 2018. "Applying Generalized Pareto Curves to Inequality Analysis," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 108, pages 114-118, May.
    9. Dennis Fixler & Marina Gindelsky & David Johnson, 2020. "Distributing Personal Income: Trends over Time," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Distribution and Mobility of Income and Wealth, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Patrizio Pagano & Massimo Sbracia, 2014. "The secular stagnation hypothesis: a review of the debate and some insights," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 231, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    11. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
    12. Golan, Amos & Perloff, Jeffrey M. & Wu, Ximing, 2001. "Welfare Effects of Minimum Wage and Other Government Policies," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt36r7v1cr, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    13. Rashida Haq, 1999. "Income Inequality and Economic Welfare. A Decomposition Analysis for the Household Sector in Pakistan," PIDE-Working Papers 1999:170, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.
    14. Richard B. FREEMAN, 2010. "It's financialization!," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 149(2), pages 163-183, June.
    15. Thomas Blanchet & Ignacio Flores & Marc Morgan, 2018. "The Weight of the Rich: Improving Surveys Using Tax Data," Working Papers hal-02878315, HAL.
    16. Cowell, Frank A., 2014. "Piketty in the long run," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 65992, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    17. Wang, Yuanjun & You, Shibing, 2016. "An alternative method for modeling the size distribution of top wealth," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 457(C), pages 443-453.
    18. Advani, Arun & Andy Summers, Andy & Tarrant, Hannah, 2021. "Measuring UK top incomes," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1334, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    19. Annette Alstadsæter & Niels Johannesen & Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Tax Evasion and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(6), pages 2073-2103, June.
    20. Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez & Emmanuel Chavez & Gerardo Esquivel, 2017. "Growth is (really) good for the (really) rich," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(12), pages 2639-2675, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11955. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.