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Levels and Trends in United States Income and Its Distribution A Crosswalk from Market Income Towards a Comprehensive Haig-Simons Income Approach

Author

Listed:
  • Philip Armour
  • Richard V. Burkhauser
  • Jeff Larrimore

Abstract

Recent research on United States levels and trends in income inequality vary substantially in how they measure income. Piketty and Saez (2003) examine market income of tax units based on IRS tax return data, DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Smith (2012) and most CPS-based research uses pre-tax, post-transfer cash income of households, while the CBO (2012) uses both data sets and focuses on household size-adjusted comprehensive income of persons, including taxable realized capital gains. This paper provides a crosswalk of income growth across these common income measures using a unified data set. It then uses a more consistent Haig-Simons income definition approach to comprehensive income by incorporating yearly-accrued capital gains to measure yearly changes in wealth rather than focusing solely on the realized taxable capital gains that appear in IRS tax return data. Doing so dramatically reduces the observed growth in income inequality across the distribution, but most especially the rise in top-end income since 1989.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip Armour & Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore, 2013. "Levels and Trends in United States Income and Its Distribution A Crosswalk from Market Income Towards a Comprehensive Haig-Simons Income Approach," NBER Working Papers 19110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19110
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2007. "Volatility and Dispersion in Business Growth Rates: Publicly Traded versus Privately Held Firms," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 107-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2009. "Recent Trends in Top Income Shares in the USA: Reconciling Estimates from March CPS and IRS Tax Return Data," Working Papers 09-26, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    3. repec:cbo:report:43373 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Auerbach, Alan J., 1989. "Capital Gains Taxation and Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 42(3), pages 391-401, September.
    5. Yonatan Ben-Shalom & Robert A. Moffitt & John Karl Scholz, 2011. "An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Anti-Poverty Programs in the United States," NBER Working Papers 17042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jeff Larrimore & Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Laura Zayatz, 2008. "Consistent Cell Means for Topcoded Incomes in the Public Use March CPS (1976-2007)," NBER Working Papers 13941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Barthold, Thomas A., 1993. "How Should We Measure Distribution?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 46(3), pages 291-299, September.
    8. Lynn Karoly & Gary Burtless, 1995. "Demographic change, rising earnings inequality, and the distribution of personal well-being, 1959–1989," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 32(3), pages 379-405, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Kliman, 2015. "The Great Recession and Marx's Crisis Theory," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 74(2), pages 236-277, March.
    2. Edward Harris & Frank Sammartino, 2014. "Trends in the Distribution of Household Income, 1979–2010," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress, pages 181-211 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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