IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/wil/wileco/2010-22.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data

Author

Abstract

This paper presents summary statistics on the occupations of taxpayers in the top percentile of the national income distribution and fractiles thereof, as well as the patterns of real income growth between 1979 and 2005 for top earners in each occupation, based on information reported on U.S. individual income tax returns. The data demonstrate that executives, managers, supervisors, and financial professionals account for about 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent of income earners in recent years, and can account for 70 percent of the increase in the share of national income going to the top 0.1 percent of the income distribution between 1979 and 2005. During 1979-2005 there was substantial heterogeneity in growth rates of income for top earners across occupations, and significant divergence in incomes within occupations among people in the top 1 percent. We consider the implications for various competing explanations for the substantial changes in income inequality that have occurred in the U.S. in recent times. We then use panel data on U.S. tax returns spanning the years 1987 through 2005, to estimate the elasticity of gross income with respect to net-of-tax share (that is, one minus the marginal tax rate). Information on occupation allows us to control for other influences on income in a flexible way using interactions among occupation, position in the income distribution, stock prices, housing prices, and the business cycle. We also allow for income shifting across years in response to anticipated tax changes, for the long-run effect of a tax reform to differ from the short-run effects, for heterogeneous mean-reversion across incomes, and for heterogeneous elasticities across income classes. In a specification that does all this, we estimate a significant elasticity of 0.7 among taxpayers in the top 0.1 percent of the income distribution. Outside of the top 0.1 percent of the income distribution, we find no conclusive evidence of a positive elasticity of income with respect to net-of-tax shares. We find that the estimate for the top 0.1 percent is not robust to controlling for a spline in lagged income that is very flexible at the upper reaches of the income distribution, suggesting that the method used to allow for income dynamics is very important. Allowing for income shifting across years in response to anticipated tax changes has important consequences for the estimates.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon Bakija & Adam Cole & Bradley Heim, 2008. "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-22, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jan 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2010-22
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/BakijaColeHeimJobsIncomeGrowthTopEarners.pdf
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
    2. Alberto Bisin & Giorgio Topa & Thierry Verdier, 2004. "Religious Intermarriage and Socialization in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 615-664, June.
    3. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    4. Bisin, Alberto & Patacchini, Eleonora & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2016. "Bend it like Beckham: Ethnic identity and integration," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 146-164.
    5. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Michael Haines & Robert A. Margo, 2009. "Did Railroads Induce or Follow Economic Growth? Urbanization and Population Growth in the American Midwest, 1850-60," NBER Working Papers 14640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
    7. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    8. Jonathan Gruber, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," NBER Working Papers 11377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Margo, Robert A., 1999. "Regional Wage Gaps and the Settlement of the Midwest," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 128-143, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    income distribution; behavioral response to taxation;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General

    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:wil:wileco:2010-22. 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: (Stephen Sheppard). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/edwilus.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.