Recent Trends in the Distribution of Income: Labor, Wealth and More Complete Measures of Well Being

Source: Timothy M. Smeeding & Jeffrey P. Thompson, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Working Paper Series, Number 225, June 2010

From the abstract:
The impact of the great recession on inequality is unclear. Because the crises in the housing and stock markets and mass job loss affect incomes from across the entire distribution, the overall impact on inequality is difficult to determine. Early speculation using a variety of narrow measures of earnings, income and consumption yield contradictory results. In this paper, we develop new estimates of income inequality based on ‘more complete income’ (MCI), which augments standard income measures with those that are accrued from the ownership of wealth. We use the 1989-2007 Surveys of Consumer Finances, and also construct MCI measures for 2009 based on projections of assets, income, and earnings.

We also assess the level and trend in the functional distribution of income between capital and labor, and find a rising share of income accruing to real capital or wealth from 1989 to 2007. The recent economic crisis has diminished the capital share back to levels from 2004. Contrary to the findings of other researchers, we find that the labor share of income among high-income groups declined between 1992 and 2007.

Leave a Reply