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How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?

Author

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  • Fatih Guvenen
  • Greg Kaplan
  • Jae Song

Abstract

How sensitive are the earnings of top earners to business cycles? And, how does the business cycle sensitivity of top earners vary by industry? We use a confidential dataset on earnings histories of US males from the Social Security Administration. On average, individuals in the top 1% of the earnings distribution are slightly more cyclical than the population average. But there are large differences across sectors: Top earners in Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) and Construction face substantial business cycle volatility, whereas those in Services (who make up 40% of individuals in the top 1 percent) have earnings that are less cyclical than the average worker.

Suggested Citation

  • Fatih Guvenen & Greg Kaplan & Jae Song, 2014. "How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?," NBER Working Papers 19864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19864
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gerald Auten & Geoffrey Gee & Nicholas Turner, 2013. "Income Inequality, Mobility, and Turnover at the Top in the US, 1987-2010," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 168-172, May.
    2. Jonathan A. Parker & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2010. "The Increase in Income Cyclicality of High-Income Households and Its Relation to the Rise in Top Income Shares," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(2 (Fall)), pages 1-70.
    3. Fatih Guvenen & Serdar Ozkan & Jae Song, 2014. "The Nature of Countercyclical Income Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(3), pages 621-660.
    4. Jon Bakija & Adam Cole & Bradley Heim, 2008. "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-22, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jan 2012.
    5. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128.
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    Cited by:

    1. Foellmi, Reto & Martínez, Isabel Z., 2014. "Volatile Top Income Shares in Switzerland? Reassessing the Evolution Between 1981 and 2009," CEPR Discussion Papers 10006, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Böhm, Michael & Metzger, Daniel & Strömberg, Per Johan, 2018. ""Since you're so rich, you must be really smart": Talent and the Finance Wage Premium," CEPR Discussion Papers 12711, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Alejandro Badel & Moira Daly & Mark Huggett & Martin Nybom, 2018. "Top Earners: Cross-Country Facts," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 100(3), pages 237-257.
    4. Christian Bayer & Ralph Luetticke, 2019. "Shocks, Frictions, and Inequality in US Business Cycles," 2019 Meeting Papers 256, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Antonin Bergeaud & Richard Blundell & David Hemous, 2019. "Innovation and Top Income Inequality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(1), pages 1-45.
    6. Bernstein, Joshua, 2021. "A model of state-dependent monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 904-917.
    7. Audra Bowlus & Émilien Gouin-Bonenfant & Huju Liu & Lance Lochner & Youngmin Park, 2021. "Four Decades of Canadian Earnings Inequality and Dynamics Across Workers and Firms," Staff Working Papers 21-20, Bank of Canada.
    8. Frédéric Teulon & Guillaume Bigot & Bernard Terrany & Negar Youssefian, 2016. "Rémunérations des PDG : toniques ou toxiques ? Une mise en perspective de la littérature," Post-Print hal-01865108, HAL.
    9. Bayer, Christian & Born, Benjamin & Luetticke, Ralph, 2020. "The Liquidity Channel of Fiscal Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 14883, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Jack Blundell, 2021. "Wage responses to gender pay gap reporting requirements," CEP Discussion Papers dp1750, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Böhm, Michael & Metzger, Daniel & Strömberg, Per, 2015. "Since you’re so rich, you must be really smart”: Talent and the Finance Wage Premium," Working Paper Series 313, Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden).
    12. Michael Böhm & Daniel Metzger & Per Strömberg, 2022. "“Since You’re So Rich, You Must Be Really Smart”: Talent, Rent Sharing, and the Finance Wage Premium," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 147, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    13. Reto Foellmi & Isabel Z. Martínez, 2017. "Volatile Top Income Shares in Switzerland? Reassessing the Evolution between 1981 and 2010," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(5), pages 793-809, December.
    14. Blundell, Jack, 2021. "Wage responses to gender pay gap reporting requirements," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 114416, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    15. Reto Foellmi & Isabel Z. Martínez, 2018. "Inequality in Switzerland: A Haven of Stability?," CESifo Forum, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 19(02), pages 19-25, July.
    16. repec:ces:ifofor:v:19:y:2018:i:2:p:19-25 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Böhm, Michael Johannes & Metzger, Daniel & Strömberg, Per, 2022. ""Since You're So Rich, You Must Be Really Smart": Talent, Rent Sharing, and the Finance Wage Premium," IZA Discussion Papers 15337, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    18. Beatriz Muriel & Horacio Vera, 2015. "The Effects of Economic Growth on Earnings in Bolivia," Development Research Working Paper Series 08/2015, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.
    19. Jesse Bricker & Alice Henriques & Jacob Krimmel & John Sabelhaus, 2016. "Measuring Income and Wealth at the Top Using Administrative and Survey Data," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(1 (Spring), pages 261-331.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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