CNN, The Top 1% Haven't Recovered Yet, Either:
The income of the Top 1% is also below where it was before the Great Recession, largely because America's richest took a massive hit during the economic downturn. They have yet to recover, despite the fact that they've captured the majority of the income gains since then.
The Top 1% had an average income of $1.26 million in 2014, down from $1.56 million in 2007. That's a 19.1% drop, according to an analysis of tax data by Emmanuel Saez, University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics. ... The Bottom 90%, meanwhile, saw their average incomes fall 10.7% to $33,068 in 2014, from $37,017 in 2007. ... The tippy top of the ladder — the Top 0.01% — actually have the farthest to go in order to return to pre-2007 levels. Their incomes are down 27.4% to $29 million in 2014.
Slate: Maybe Wealth Inequality Isn’t Surging After All, by Jordan Weismann:
Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman appeared to upend much of the old wisdom about America's wealth distribution in 2014, when they released an innovative study that gave readers a peek into the exploding fortunes of the top 0.1 percent. ... The top 1 percent's portion of the nation's pie had climbed to 42 percent. The top 0.1 percent's share had more than tripled, from 7 percent in 1978 to 22 percent in 2012. ...
The findings seemed like a blockbuster sequel to Saez's work with Thomas Piketty, with whom he popularized the idea of using tax information to trace income inequality. They also seemed to dispel the idea that the wealth gap wasn't growing in line with the income gap. Piketty himself endorsed the new numbers, saying they were more reliable than the statistics he had used in his best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
But now they seem to be facing some stiff criticism. In a working paper presented during a recent Brookings conference, a group of economists from the Federal Reserve Board and the University of Pennsylvania argue that while wealth inequality is indeed growing, its rise has been much slower and less dramatic than the surge depicted by Saez and Zucman.
[Jesse Bricker, Alice Henriques & John Sabelhaus (Federal Reserve Board) & Jacob Krimmel (Wharton), Measuring Income and Wealth at the Top Using Administrative and Survey Data:
Abstract: Most available estimates of US wealth and income concentration indicate that top shares are high and rising in recent decades, but there is some disagreement about specific levels and trends. Household surveys are the traditional data source used to measure top shares, but recent studies using administrative tax records suggest that those survey-based top share estimates may not be capturing all of the increasing concentration. In this paper we reconcile the divergent top share estimates, showing how the choice of data sets and methodological decisions affect the levels and trends. Relative to the new and most widely-cited top share estimates based on administrative tax data alone, our preferred estimates for both wealth and income concentration are lower and rising less rapidly in recent years.]
The disagreement between the two sides starts with their data sources. ... For many years, the Federal Reserve's triennial Survey of Consumer Finances was considered the most important trove of information on American wealth. But Saez and Zucman chose to rely on tax data instead, arguing that it was more likely to capture the wealth of the extremely rich, who respond to government surveys less frequently than other Americans. Because the IRS doesn't actually track anybody's net worth, however, the duo had to reverse-engineer their estimates using what's known as the "capitalization" method: First they looked at IRS records to find the distribution of income from things like stocks and bonds, then they calculated how much wealth would be required to generate that money based on likely rates of return.
In their new paper, the Fed-Penn team contends that the Survey of Consumer Finances in fact does a fine job tracking down the superaffluent. There is one major omission, however: The survey purposely doesn't include any members of the Forbes 400, the decades-old ranking of America's richest (so no Warren Buffett or Donald Trump). To fix that flaw, the authors construct a new wealth measure that uses the Survey of Consumer Finances as a base, then adds the Forbes data (which makes the rich look richer), along with the total value of all defined-benefit pensions (which makes the middle class look richer). The final outcome: A relatively gentle but sustained rise in inequality since the 1980s, such that the top 1 percent now claim about 33 percent of household wealth (9 percentages points below Saez and Zucman's estimate), while the top 0.1 percent claimed less than 15 percent (about 7 percentage points below Saez's and Zucman's estimate). ...
Why does their approach find such lower levels of wealth concentration? The authors offer three main reasons.
March 27, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink
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