The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective

Date: 01 July 2013

For three decades, the debate about rising income inequality in the United States has centered on the dispersion of wages and the increased premium for skilled/educated workers, attributed in varying proportions to skill-biased technological change and to globalization. In recent years, however, there has been a growing realization that most of the action has been at the very top. This has attracted a great deal of public attention and has represented a challenge to the economics profession. Stories based on the supply and demand for skills are not enough to explain the extreme top tail of the earnings distribution; nor is it enough to look only at earned incomes. Different approaches are necessary to explain what has happened in the United States over the past century and also to explain the differing experience in other high-income countries over recent decades.

Tony Atkinson Facundo Alvaredo Thomas Piketty Emmanuel Saez

Employment, Equity and Growth

The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective

Type: paper

Alvaredo, F., Atkinson, A.B., Piketty, T. & Saez, E. (2013). 'The top 1 percent in international and historical perspective'. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27(3), pp.3–20.

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