IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/23371.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Lifetime Incomes in the United States over Six Decades

Author

Listed:
  • Fatih Guvenen
  • Greg Kaplan
  • Jae Song
  • Justin Weidner

Abstract

Using panel data on individual labor income histories from 1957 to 2013, we document two empirical facts about the distribution of lifetime income in the United States. First, from the cohort that entered the labor market in 1967 to the cohort that entered in 1983, median lifetime income of men declined by 10%–19%. We find little-to-no rise in the lower three-quarters of the percentiles of the male lifetime income distribution during this period. Accounting for rising employer-provided health and pension benefits partly mitigates these findings but does not alter the substantive conclusions. For women, median lifetime income increased by 22%–33% from the 1957 to the 1983 cohort, but these gains were relative to very low lifetime income for the earliest cohort. Much of the difference between newer and older cohorts is attributed to differences in income during the early years in the labor market. Partial life-cycle profiles of income observed for cohorts that are currently in the labor market indicate that the stagnation of lifetime incomes is unlikely to reverse. Second, we find that inequality in lifetime incomes has increased significantly within each gender group. However, the closing lifetime gender gap has kept overall lifetime inequality virtually flat. The increase within gender groups is largely attributed to an increase in inequality at young ages, and partial life-cycle income data for younger cohorts indicate that the increase in inequality is likely to continue. Overall, our findings point to the substantial changes in labor market outcomes for younger workers as a critical driver of trends in both the level and inequality of lifetime income over the past 50 years.

Suggested Citation

  • Fatih Guvenen & Greg Kaplan & Jae Song & Justin Weidner, 2017. "Lifetime Incomes in the United States over Six Decades," NBER Working Papers 23371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23371
    Note: AG DAE ED EFG HE LS PR
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23371.pdf
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at http://www.nber.org/wwphelp.html. Free access is also available to older working papers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B. (ed.), 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226241067.
    2. Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld02-1, January.
    3. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746.
    4. Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "Introduction to "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform"," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jeffrey R. Brown & James M. Poterba, 2009. "Introduction to "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 23"," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 23 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Milton Friedman & Simon Kuznets, 1954. "Income from Independent Professional Practice," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie54-1, January.
    7. Milton Friedman & Simon Kuznets, 1954. "The Data on Income from Independent Professional Practice," NBER Chapters,in: Income from Independent Professional Practice, pages 46-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Jeffrey R. Brown & James M. Poterba, 2009. "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 23," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pote08-3, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. David Comerford & Jose V Rodriguez Mora & Michael J Watts, 2017. "The rise of meritocracy and the inheritance of advantage," Working Papers 1716, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
    2. Haan, Peter & Kemptner, Daniel & Lüthen, Holger, 2017. "The Rising Longevity Gap by Lifetime Earnings: Distributional Implications for the Pension System," IZA Discussion Papers 11121, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 2017. "Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 48(1 (Spring), pages 397-476.
    4. Richard Blundell & Robert Joyce & Agnes Norris Keiller & James P. Ziliak, 2017. "Income inequality and the labour market in Britain and the US," IFS Working Papers W17/25, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23371. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.