29 octobre 2020
Ecrit par WID.world

Trends in US Income and Wealth Inequality: Revising After the Revisionists

Trends in US Income and Wealth Inequality: Revising After the Revisionists

In this paper, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman examine the claims made in recent studies, arguing that US inequality has increased less than previously thought. Taking stock of this body of work, and factoring in other improvements, they provide a comprehensive update of their estimates of US income and wealth inequality.

The revised series show a rise of inequality similar to Saez and Zucman (2016) and Piketty, Saez, and Zucman (2018), while allowing for a more granular depiction of the composition of wealth and income at the top.

Key-result: Trends in US Income and Wealth Inequality

  • The top 1% pre-tax income share has increased by 8.5 points from 1978 to 2014

>> Click here to access to the US Income and Wealth Inequality Data

Figure – Top 1% Pre-Tax Income Share

This figure compares two estimations of the top 1% pre-tax national income share, with income equally split among married spouses:

  • in red, the estimation of Piketty, Saez and Zucman (2018, Figure V);
  • in blue, the estimation presented in this paper.

Top1 Pre-Tax Income Share, Saez Zucman - World Inequality Lab

Policy recommendations

Academic discussions and contradictions are fruitful and necessary to advance scientific knowledge. Yet, to avoid the distortion of research output, academic journals should keep a balance between the publication of papers confirming and reversing previous findings.

The authors also stress the need for better and more comprehensive public statistics on inequality, including:

  • a more systematic collection of data for public statistical purposes;
  • the creation of improved conceptual frameworks to organize these data;
  • the collaboration of researchers across institutions and across countries to establish broadly-agreed, harmonized statistical standards.



Media inquiries

  • Olivia Ronsain: olivia.ronsain@wid.world; +33 7 63 91 81 68



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Center for Equitable Growth at UC Berkeley, the Sandler foundation, and the Stone foundation.

This working paper has been first published at NBER under the reference 27921.

NBER working papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been peer-reviewed or been subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications.