IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/8467.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998 (series updated to 2000 available)

Author

Listed:
  • Thomas Piketty
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the US using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century. Our series suggest that the 'technical change' view of inequality dynamics cannot fully account for the observed facts. The large shocks that capital owners experienced during the Great Depression and World War II seem to have had a permanent effect: top capital incomes are still lower in the late 1990s than before World War I. A plausible explanation is that steep progressive taxation, by reducing drastically the rate of wealth accumulation at the top of the distribution, has prevented large fortunes to recover fully yet from these shocks. The evidence on wage inequality shows that top wage shares were flat before WWII and dropped precipitously during the war. Top wage shares have started recovering from this shock since the 1960s-1970s and are now higher than before WWII. We emphasize the role of social norms as a potential explanation for the pattern of wage shares. All the tables and figures have been updated to the year 2000, the are available in excel format in the data appendix of the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998 (series updated to 2000 available)," NBER Working Papers 8467, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8467 Note: PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8467.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, 2001. "Disappearing Dividends: Changing Firm Characteristics Or Lower Propensity To Pay?," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 14(1), pages 67-79.
    2. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2000. "Do CEOs Set Their Own Pay? The Ones Without Principals Do," NBER Working Papers 7604, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "What Happens When You Tax the Rich? Evidence from Executive Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 352-378, April.
    4. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "The Returns to Skill in the United States across the Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 7126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
    6. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
    7. Daniel R. Feenberg & James M. Poterba, 1993. "Income Inequality and the Incomes of Very High-Income Taxpayers: Evidence from Tax Returns," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 7, pages 145-177 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Roger H. Gordon & Joel Slemrod, 1998. "Are "Real" Responses to Taxes Simply Income Shifting Between Corporate and Personal Tax Bases?," NBER Working Papers 6576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2000. "Do CEOs Set Their Own Pay? The Ones Without Principals Do," Working Papers 810, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    10. Joel Slemrod & Jon Bakija, 2000. "Does Growing Inequality Reduce Tax Progressivity? Should It?," NBER Working Papers 7576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Gottschalk, Peter & Smeeding, Timothy M., 2000. "Empirical evidence on income inequality in industrialized countries," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 261-307 Elsevier.
    12. Lindert, Peter H., 2000. "Three centuries of inequality in Britain and America," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 3, pages 167-216 Elsevier.
    13. James Poterba, 1997. "The Estate Tax and After-Tax Investment Returns," NBER Working Papers 6337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
    15. repec:hrv:faseco:30703979 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2000. "The Taxation of Executive Compensation," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 14, pages 1-44 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Julio J. Rotemberg, 2002. "Perceptions of Equity and the Distribution of Income," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 249-288, Part.
    18. repec:fth:prinin:431 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Wilbur G. Lewellen, 1968. "Executive Compensation in Large Industrial Corporations," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lewe68-1, January.
    20. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
    21. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Impact of the Estate Tax on the Wealth Accumulation and Avoidance Behavior of Donors," NBER Working Papers 7960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Desigualdad de ingresos: su evolución en 100 años de historia
      by Kiko Llaneras in Politikon on 2012-05-15 11:50:18

    Citations

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


    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:quaeco:v:65:y:2017:i:c:p:363-377 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Robert Shelburne, 2006. "A Utilitarian Welfare Analysis of Trade Liberalization," ECE Discussion Papers Series 2006_4, UNECE.
    3. Oliver Grant, 2002. "Does Industrialisation Push up Inequality? New Evidence on the Kuznets Curve from Nineteenth-Century Prussian Tax Statistics," Economics Series Working Papers 2002-W48, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

    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:8467. 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.