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Using the Pareto Distribution to Improve Estimates of Topcoded Earnings

  • Philip Armour
  • Richard V. Burkhauser
  • Jeff Larrimore

Inconsistent censoring in the public-use March CPS limits its usefulness in measuring labor earnings trends, as previous approaches for imputing topcoded earnings systematically understate top earnings. Using Pareto estimation methods with less-censored internal data, we create an enhanced cell-mean series to capture top earnings in the public-use data. Annual earnings inequality trends since 1963 using our series largely mirror those found by Kopczuk, Saez, and Song (2010) using Social Security Administration data for Commerce and Industry workers. When we extend our analysis to 2013 and consider all workers, earnings inequality levels are higher but its growth is more modest.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19846.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19846
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  1. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  2. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States: 1967-2006," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 15-51, January.
  3. Jeff Larrimore & Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Laura Zayatz, 2008. "Consistent Cell Means for Topcoded Incomes in the Public Use March CPS (1976-2007)," Working Papers 08-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  4. 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.
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  6. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  8. 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.
  9. Katz, Lawrence F & Murphy, Kevin M, 1992. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 35-78, February.
  10. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  11. Stephen P. Jenkins & Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Jeff Larrimore, 2011. "Measuring inequality using censored data: a multipleā€imputation approach to estimation and inference," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 174(1), pages 63-81, January.
  12. Saez, Emmanuel, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 205-29, January.
  13. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128, February.
  14. 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.
  15. R. Quandt, 1966. "Old and new methods of estimation and the pareto distribution," Metrika, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 55-82, December.
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