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Lifetime Earnings Inequality in Germany

  • Lüthen, Holger
  • Bönke, Timm
  • Corneo, Giacomo

This paper documents the magnitude, pattern, and evolution of lifetime earnings inequality in Germany. Based on a large sample of earning biographies from social security records, we show that the intra-generational distribution of lifetime earnings of male workers has a Gini coefficient around .2 for cohorts born in the late 1930s and early 1940s; this amounts to about 2/3 of the value of the Gini coefficient of annual earnings. Within cohorts, mobility in the distribution of yearly earnings is substantial at the beginning of the lifecycle, decreases afterwards and virtually vanishes after age forty. Earnings data for thirty-one cohorts reveals striking evidence of a secular rise of intra-generational inequality in lifetime earnings: West-German men born in the early 1960s are likely to experience about 80 % more lifetime inequality than their fathers. In contrast, both short-term and long-term intra-generational mobility have been rather stable. Longer unemployment spells of workers at the bottom of the distribution of younger cohorts contribute to explain 30 to 40 % of the overall increase in lifetime earnings inequality.

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File URL: http://econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/62074/1/VfS_2012_pid_52.pdf
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Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century with number 62074.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc12:62074
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  1. Pfeiffer, Friedhelm & Gernandt, Johannes, 2007. "Rising Wage Inequality in Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-019 [rev.2], ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  2. Ingvild Almås & Tarjei Havnes & Magne Mogstad, 2010. "Baby Booming Inequality? Demographic Change and Earnings Inequality in Norway, 1967-2000," CESifo Working Paper Series 3200, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Mark M. Trede, 1998. "The age profile of mobility measures: an application to earnings in West Germany," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 397-409.
  4. Bjorklund, Anders, 1993. "A Comparison between Actual Distributions of Annual and Lifetime Income: Sweden 1951-89," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(4), pages 377-86, December.
  5. Steven Haider & Gary Solon, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variation in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1308-1320, September.
  6. Bhuller, Manudeep & Mogstad, Magne & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2011. "Life-Cycle Bias and the Returns to Schooling in Current and Lifetime Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 5788, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Dirk Krüger, 2009. "Inequality Trends for Germany in the Last Two Decades: A Tale of Two Countries," MEA discussion paper series 09184, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  8. Esfandiar Maasoumi & Mark Trede, 2001. "Comparing Income Mobility In Germany And The United States Using Generalized Entropy Mobility Measures," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 551-559, August.
  9. Richard V. Burkhauser & John G. Poupore, 1997. "A Cross-National Comparison Of Permanent Inequality In The United States And Germany," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(1), pages 10-17, February.
  10. 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, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128, February.
  11. Dustmann, Christian & Ludsteck, Johannes & Schönberg, Uta, 2007. "Revisiting the German Wage Structure," IZA Discussion Papers 2685, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Sen, Amartya, 1973. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198281931.
  13. Jan Brenner, 2009. "Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings – Evidence for German Natives and Guest Workers," Ruhr Economic Papers 0095, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  14. Fabien Dell, 2005. "Top Incomes in Germany and Switzerland Over the Twentieth Century," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 412-421, 04/05.
  15. Peter Gottschalk & Sheldon Danziger, 2005. "Inequality Of Wage Rates, Earnings And Family Income In The United States, 1975-2002 ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(2), pages 231-254, 06.
  16. Stefan Bach & Giacomo Corneo & Viktor Steiner, 2009. "From Bottom To Top: The Entire Income Distribution In Germany, 1992-2003," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 303-330, 06.
  17. Anders Bohlmark & Matthew J. Lindquist, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Income: Replication and Extension for Sweden," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 879-900, October.
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