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Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998

This paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the United States using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century. Our series suggest that the large shocks that capital owners experienced dur... Full description

Journal Title: The Quarterly journal of economics 2003-02, Vol.118 (1), p.1-41
Main Author: Piketty, Thomas
Other Authors: Saez, Emmanuel
Format: Electronic Article Electronic Article
Language: English
Subjects:
Publisher: Oxford: MIT Press
ID: ISSN: 0033-5533
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recordid: cdi_proquest_journals_210974996
title: Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998
format: Article
creator:
  • Piketty, Thomas
  • Saez, Emmanuel
subjects:
  • Capital gains
  • Capital income
  • Dividends
  • Economic theory
  • Estate taxes
  • History
  • Income distribution
  • Income inequality
  • Income shares
  • Income taxes
  • Stock shares
  • Studies
  • Tax returns
  • Wages
  • World War II
  • World wars
ispartof: The Quarterly journal of economics, 2003-02, Vol.118 (1), p.1-41
description: This paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the United States using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century. Our series suggest that the large shocks that capital owners experienced during the Great Depression and World War II have had a permanent effect on top capital incomes. We argue that steep progressive income and estate taxation may have prevented large fortunes from fully recovering from these shocks. Top wage shares were flat before World War II, dropped precipitously during the war, and did not start to recover before the late 1960s but are now higher than before World War II. As a result, the working rich have replaced the rentiers at the top of the income distribution.
language: eng
source:
identifier: ISSN: 0033-5533
fulltext: no_fulltext
issn:
  • 0033-5533
  • 1531-4650
url: Link


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descriptionThis paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the United States using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century. Our series suggest that the large shocks that capital owners experienced during the Great Depression and World War II have had a permanent effect on top capital incomes. We argue that steep progressive income and estate taxation may have prevented large fortunes from fully recovering from these shocks. Top wage shares were flat before World War II, dropped precipitously during the war, and did not start to recover before the late 1960s but are now higher than before World War II. As a result, the working rich have replaced the rentiers at the top of the income distribution.
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subjectCapital gains ; Capital income ; Dividends ; Economic theory ; Estate taxes ; History ; Income distribution ; Income inequality ; Income shares ; Income taxes ; Stock shares ; Studies ; Tax returns ; Wages ; World War II ; World wars
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descriptionThis paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the United States using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century. Our series suggest that the large shocks that capital owners experienced during the Great Depression and World War II have had a permanent effect on top capital incomes. We argue that steep progressive income and estate taxation may have prevented large fortunes from fully recovering from these shocks. Top wage shares were flat before World War II, dropped precipitously during the war, and did not start to recover before the late 1960s but are now higher than before World War II. As a result, the working rich have replaced the rentiers at the top of the income distribution.
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notesWe thank Anthony Atkinson, Lawrence Katz, and two anonymous referees for their helpful and detailed comments. We have also benefited from comments and discussions with Daron Acemoglu, Philippe Aghion, Alberto Alesina, David Autor, Abhijit Banerjee, Francesco Caselli, Dora Costa, David Cutler, Esther Duflo, Daniel Feenberg, William Gale, Claudia Goldin, Alan Krueger, Howard Rosenthal, and numerous seminar participants. We acknowledge financial support from the MacArthur foundation. All our series are available in machine readable format in an electronic appendix of the working paper version at www.nber.org/papers/W8467.
abstractThis paper presents new homogeneous series on top shares of income and wages from 1913 to 1998 in the United States using individual tax returns data. Top income and wages shares display a U-shaped pattern over the century. Our series suggest that the large shocks that capital owners experienced during the Great Depression and World War II have had a permanent effect on top capital incomes. We argue that steep progressive income and estate taxation may have prevented large fortunes from fully recovering from these shocks. Top wage shares were flat before World War II, dropped precipitously during the war, and did not start to recover before the late 1960s but are now higher than before World War II. As a result, the working rich have replaced the rentiers at the top of the income distribution.
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