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How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?

  • Fatih Guvenen
  • Greg Kaplan
  • Jae Song

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19864.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Publication status: published as Fatih Guvenen & Greg Kaplan & Jae Song, 2014. "How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 148-53, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19864
Note: AP EFG IFM ME
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  1. Fatih Guvenen & Serdar Ozkan & Jae Song, 2012. "The Nature of Countercyclical Income Risk," NBER Working Papers 18035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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 168-72, May.
  3. 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.
  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.
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