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The Evolution of High Incomes in Canada, 1920-2000

  • Emmanuel Saez
  • Michael R. Veall

This paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income from 1920 to 2000 in Canada using personal income tax return data. Top income shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century, with a precipitous drop during World War II, followed by a slower decline until 1970. Since the late 1970s, top income shares have been increasing steadily and the very top shares are now as high as in the pre-war era. As in the United States, the recent increase in top income shares is the consequence of a surge in top wages and salaries. As a result, series on the composition of incomes within the top income groups from 1946 to 2000 show a dramatic increase in the share of wages and salaries. The parallel evolution of top income shares in Canada and the United States, associated with much more modest marginal tax rate cuts in Canada, suggests that the upward trend in top shares in Canada since the late 1970s cannot be explained by tax cuts. Further evidence suggests that the upward trend in Canada derives from the United States, perhaps because many Canadians have an emigration option. A data appendix for this paper is available.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9607.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
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Publication status: published as Saez, Emmanuel and Michael R. Veall. "The Evolution Of High Incomes In Northern America: Lessons From Canadian Evidence," American Economic Review, 2005, v95(2,May), 831-849.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9607
Note: PE
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  1. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. 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.
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  9. Slemrod, Joel, 1998. "Methodological Issues in Measuring and Interpreting Taxable Income Elasticities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 4), pages 773-88, December.
  10. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
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