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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article deals with the issue of how high incomes have been changing over long time periods for many rich countries. Section 2 discusses the basic methodology used for creating recent top incomes estimates, and issues that arise about comparability across countries. Section 3 presents time trends for both Anglo–Saxon and non-Anglo–Saxon countries. Section 4 assesses top income shares against the standard axioms of inequality, and presents empirical evidence on the relationship between top income shares and other commonly used measures of inequality, such as the Gini coefficient. Section 5 considers possible drivers of top incomes, including major events (such as world wars and depressions), superstar labour markets, changes in taxation, and political partisanship. Section 6 discusses research on outcomes that may be affected by top incomes, including health, economic growth, and national savings. The article concludes with a discussion of the many fruitful directions for research that remain in this rapidly growing field.

Keywords: rich countries, income estimates, Anglo–Saxon, superstar labour markets, taxation, war, depression, political partisanship, inequality

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