IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/wel/wpaper/201603.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States

Author

Listed:
  • Thomas Piketty

    (Paris School of Economics)

  • Emmanuel Saez

    (University of California at Berkeley)

  • Gabriel Zucman

    (University of California at Berkeley)

Abstract

This paper combines tax, survey, and national accounts data to estimate the distribution of national income in the United States since 1913. Our distributional national accounts capture 100% of national income, allowing us to compute growth rates for each quantile of the income distribution consistent with macroeconomic growth. We estimate the distribution of both pre-tax and post-tax income, making it possible to provide a comprehensive view of how government redistribution affects inequality. Average pre-tax national income per adult has increased 60% since 1980, but we find that it has stagnated for the bottom 50% of the distribution at about $16,000 a year. The pre-tax income of the middle class—adults between the median and the 90th percentile—has grown 40% since 1980, faster than what tax and survey data suggest, due in particular to the rise of tax-exempt fringe benefits. Income has boomed at the top: in 1980, top 1% adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50% adults, while they earn 81 times more today. The upsurge of top incomes was first a labor income phenomenon but has mostly been a capital income phenomenon since 2000. The government has offset only a small fraction of the increase in inequality. The reduction of the gender gap in earnings has mitigated the increase in inequality among adults. The share of women, however, falls steeply as one moves up the labor income distribution, and is only 11% in the top 0.1% today.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2016. "Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States," Working Papers 201603, World Inequality Lab.
  • Handle: RePEc:wel:wpaper:201603
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://wid.world/document/t-piketty-e-saez-g-zucman-distributional-national-accounts-methods-and-estimates-for-the-united-states-2016/
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Emmanuel Saez, 2017. "Taxing the Rich More: Preliminary Evidence from the 2013 Tax Increase," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 71-120.
    2. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    3. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2014. "Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 230-271, February.
    4. repec:kap:jecinq:v:16:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10888-018-9384-z is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2017. "The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(3), pages 789-865, September.
    6. Guvenen, Fatih & Kaplan, Greg & Song, Jae, 2014. "The Glass Ceiling and the Paper Floor: Gender Differences among Top Earners, 1981–2012," Working Papers 716, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    7. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "How Progressive is the U.S. Federal Tax System? A Historical and International Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    8. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1953. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn53-1, December.
    9. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-41.
    10. Maryse Fesseau & Florence Wolff & Maria Liviana Mattonetti, 2013. "A Cross-country Comparison of Household Income, Consumption and Wealth between Micro Sources and National Accounts Aggregates," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2013/3, OECD Publishing.
    11. 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.
    12. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1953. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Savings," NBER Chapters,in: Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings, pages 171-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2006. "Das Human-Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 85-117.
    14. Thomas Piketty & Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "Capital is Back: Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700–2010," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1255-1310.
    15. A. B. Atkinson, 2005. "Top incomes in the UK over the 20th century," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 325-343.
    16. Simon Kuznets & Lillian Epstein & Elizabeth Jenks, 1946. "National Income and Its Composition, 1919-1938, Volume II," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn41-3.
    17. Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2016. "Editor's Choice Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 519-578.
    18. Brooks Pierce, 2001. "Compensation Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1493-1525.
    19. Anthony B. Atkinson & Alessandra Casarico & Sarah Voitchovsky, 2018. "Top incomes and the gender divide," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 16(2), pages 225-256, June.
    20. Thomas Piketty, 2003. "Income Inequality in France, 1901-1998," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(5), pages 1004-1042, October.
    21. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128.
    22. Maryse Fesseau & Maria Liviana Mattonetti, 2013. "Distributional Measures Across Household Groups in a National Accounts Framework: Results from an Experimental Cross-country Exercise on Household Income, Consumption and Saving," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2013/4, OECD Publishing.
    23. Willford Isbell King, 1930. "The National Income and Its Purchasing Power," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number king30-1, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • 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:wel:wpaper:201603. 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: (Lucas Chancel). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/wilpafr.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.