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Distributional,National,Accounts: Methods,and,Estimates,for,the,United,States,

Abstract : This paper combines tax, survey, and national accounts data to estimate the distribution of nationalincome in the United States since 1913. Our distributional national accounts capture 100% of nationalincome, allowing us to compute growth rates for each quantile of the income distribution consistentwith macroeconomic growth. We estimate the distribution of both pre-tax and post-tax income, makingit possible to provide a comprehensive view of how government redistribution affects inequality. Averagepre-tax national income per adult has increased 60% since 1980, but we find that it has stagnated forthe bottom 50% of the distribution at about $16,000 a year. The pre-tax income of the middle class—adultsbetween the median and the 90th percentile—has grown 40% since 1980, faster than what tax andsurvey data suggest, due in particular to the rise of tax-exempt fringe benefits. Income has boomedat the top: in 1980, top 1% adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50% adults, whilethey earn 81 times more today. The upsurge of top incomes was first a labor income phenomenonbut has mostly been a capital income phenomenon since 2000. The government has offset only a smallfraction of the increase in inequality. The reduction of the gender gap in earnings has mitigated theincrease in inequality among adults. The share of women, however, falls steeply as one moves up thelabor income distribution, and is only 11% in the top 0.1% today.
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Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman. Distributional,National,Accounts: Methods,and,Estimates,for,the,United,States,. 2017. ⟨halshs-02784725⟩

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