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Innovation and Top Income Inequality

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  • Philippe Aghion
  • Ufuk Akcigit
  • Antonin Bergeaud
  • Richard Blundell
  • David Hémous

Abstract

In this paper we use cross-state panel data to show a positive and significant correlation between various measures of innovativeness and top income inequality in the United States over the past decades. Two distinct instrumentation strategies suggest that this correlation (partly) reflects a causality from innovativeness to top income inequality, and the effect is significant: for example, when measured by the number of patent per capita, innovativeness accounts on average across US states for around 17% of the total increase in the top 1% income share between 1975 and 2010. Yet, innovation does not appear to increase other measures of inequality which do not focus on top incomes. Next, we show that the positive effects of innovation on the top 1% income share are dampened in states with higher lobbying intensity. Finally, from cross-section regressions performed at the commuting zone (CZ) level, we find that: (i) innovativeness is positively correlated with upward social mobility; (ii) the positive correlation between innovativeness and social mobility, is driven mainly by entrant innovators and less so by incumbent innovators, and it is dampened in states with higher lobbying intensity. Overall, our findings vindicate the Schumpeterian view whereby the rise in top income shares is partly related to innovation-led growth, where innovation itself fosters social mobility at the top through creative destruction.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Antonin Bergeaud & Richard Blundell & David Hémous, 2015. "Innovation and Top Income Inequality," NBER Working Papers 21247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21247
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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