Category Archives: Income Inequality/Gap

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich

Source: David Hope, Julian Limberg, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Working Paper 55, December 2020

This paper uses data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades to estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment. First, we use a new encompassing measure of taxes on the rich to identify instances of major reductions in tax progressivity. Then, we look at the causal effect of these
episodes on economic outcomes by applying a nonparametric generalization of the difference-in-differences indicator that implements Mahalanobis matching in panel data analysis. We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income. The effect remains stable in the medium term. In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Fifty Years of Tax Cuts for Rich Didn’t Trickle Down, Study Says
Source: Craig Stirling, Bloomberg, December 15, 2020

His and Her Earnings Following Parenthood in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom

Source: Kelly Musick, Megan Doherty Bea, Pilar Gonalons-Pons, American Sociological Review, Volume: 85 issue: 4, August 2020
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From the abstract:
This article advances a couple-level framework to examine how parenthood shapes within-family gender inequality by education in three countries that vary in their normative and policy context: the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We trace mothers’ share of couple earnings and variation by her education in the 10-year window around first birth, using long-running harmonized panel surveys from the 1990s and 2000s (N = 4,117 couples and 28,488 couple-years) and an event study methodology that leverages within-couple variation in earnings pre- and post-birth. Our results show steep declines in her share of couple earnings following first birth across the three countries that persist over several years of follow-up. Declines are smallest in the United States, due to U.S. mothers’ higher employment and longer work hours. Declines are also smaller among female partners without a college degree in the United States, where mothers have less work-family support and fewer options to manage work and family on one income. Results shed light on how parenthood plays into gender inequality within couples, and how country context shapes couple dynamics and inequality across households.

Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018

Source: Carter C. Price, Kathryn A. Edwards, RAND Corporation, Document Number: WR-A516-1, 2020

From the abstract:
The three decades following the Second World War saw a period of economic growth that was shared across the income distribution, but inequality in taxable income has increased substantially over the last four decades. This work seeks to quantify the scale of income gap created by rising inequality compared to a counterfactual in which growth was shared more broadly. We introduce a time-period agnostic and income-level agnostic measure of inequality that relates income growth to economic growth. This new metric can be applied over long stretches of time, applied to subgroups of interest, and easily calculated. We document the cumulative effect of four decades of income growth below the growth of per capita gross national income and estimate that aggregate income for the population below the 90th percentile over this time period would have been $2.5 trillion (67 percent) higher in 2018 had income growth since 1975 remained as equitable as it was in the first two post-War decades. From 1975 to 2018, the difference between the aggregate taxable income for those below the 90th percentile and the equitable growth counterfactual totals $47 trillion. We further explore trends in inequality by applying this metric within and across business cycles from 1975 to 2018 and also by demographic group.

Perpetuating Inequality: What Salary History Bans Reveal About Wages

Source: James E. Bessen, Chen Meng, Erich Denk, Boston University, Date Written: June 1, 2020

From the abstract:
Pay gaps for women and minorities have persisted after accounting for observable differences. Why? If employers can access applicants’ salary histories while bargaining over wages, they can take advantage of past inequities, perpetuating inequality. Recently, a dozen US states have banned employer access to salary histories. We analyze the effects of these salary history bans (SHBs) on employer wage posting and on the pay of job changers in a difference-in-differences design. Following SHBs, employers posted wages more often and increased pay for job changers by about 5%, with larger increases for women (8%) and African-Americans (13%). Salary histories appear to account for much of the persistence of residual wage gaps.

A century of educational inequality in the United States

Source: Michelle Jackson and Brian Holzman, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Vol. 117, no. 32, August 11, 2020

From the abstract:
The “income inequality hypothesis” holds that rising income inequality affects the distribution of a wide range of social and economic outcomes. Although it is often alleged that rising income inequality will increase the advantages of the well-off in the competition for college, some researchers have provided descriptive evidence at odds with the income inequality hypothesis. In this paper, we track long-term trends in family income inequalities in college enrollment and completion (“collegiate inequalities”) using all available nationally representative datasets for cohorts born between 1908 and 1995. We show that the trends in collegiate inequalities moved in lockstep with the trend in income inequality over the past century. There is one exception to this general finding: For cohorts at risk for serving in the Vietnam War, collegiate inequalities were high, while income inequality was low. During this period, inequality in college enrollment and completion was significantly higher for men than for women, suggesting a bona fide “Vietnam War” effect. Aside from this singular confounding event, a century of evidence establishes a strong association between income and collegiate inequality, providing support for the view that rising income inequality is fundamentally changing the distribution of life chances.

Wealth Tax Design: Lessons from Estate Tax Avoidance

Source: Jason Oh, Eric M. Zolt, UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 20-01, January 27, 2020

From the abstract:
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have both proposed ambitious new annual wealth taxes based on academic work by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. They project these proposals to raise trillions of dollars over the next ten years. Some critics challenge the Saez-Zucman approach to measuring the aggregate wealth of those subject to a wealth tax. Other critics including Larry Summers and Natasha Sarin have used data from estate tax returns and the relatively small amount of revenue the estate tax currently raises to question the revenue projections of these proposals. This comparison can be useful only if one thinks carefully about specific estate tax strategies and how these strategies translate to an annual wealth tax. This article engages in that exercise. When one takes a closer look at estate tax avoidance and how it maps onto an annual wealth tax, a much more complex narrative emerges.

That narrative has four major themes. First, there are some estate tax planning techniques (like valuation games and charitable contributions) which pose similar challenges to an annual wealth tax. These structures provide some support for critics like Summers and Sarin who argue that the annual wealth tax will struggle to raise the projected revenue. Second, other structures (such as grantor-retained annuity trusts ) work well to minimize estate taxes but are of limited use for structuring around an annual wealth tax. Projecting wealth tax revenue using estate tax revenue without considering the revenue consequences of these strategies will understate wealth tax revenue. Third, other techniques (including the use of lifetime estate/gift exemptions) highlight possible synergies between an estate and wealth tax. In many ways, a robust estate tax will make the wealth tax harder to avoid and vice-versa. The converse is also true: a poorly designed estate/gift tax will undermine an annual wealth tax. Adopting a wealth tax without strengthening the gift and estate makes little sense. Fourth, one of the major lessons of estate tax planning is that it is much easier to minimize estate taxes on future wealth than existing wealth. A myriad of techniques allow taxpayers to “freeze” the value of assets for estate tax purposes. Freezing techniques will also prove helpful in minimizing wealth taxes. It is possible that even a well-designed wealth tax will have a base that shrinks rather than grows over time.

CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 to $21.3 million – CEOs now earn 320 times as much as a typical worker

Source: Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra, Economic Policy Institute, August 18, 2020

From the introduction:
Chief executive officers (CEOs) of the largest firms in the U.S. earn far more today than they did in the mid-1990s and many times what they earned in the 1960s or late 1970s. They also earn far more than the typical worker, and their pay—which relies heavily on stock-related compensation— has grown much more rapidly than typical worker pay. Importantly, rising CEO pay does not reflect rising value of skills, but rather CEOs’ use of their power to set their own pay. And this growing earning power at the top has been driving the growth of inequality in our country.

Occupational Skill Mismatch: Differences by Gender and Cohort

Source: John T. Addison, Liwen Chen, Orgul D. Ozturk, ILR Review, Volume 73 Issue 3, May 2020
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From the abstract:
The authors deploy a measure of occupational mismatch based on the discrepancy between the portfolio of skills required by an occupation and the array of abilities possessed by the worker for learning those skills. Using data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79 and NLSY97), they report distinct gender differences in match quality and changes in match quality over the course of careers. They also show that a substantial portion of the gender wage gap stems from match quality differences among the college educated. College-educated females show a significantly greater likelihood of mismatch than do males. Moreover, individuals with children and those in more flexible occupations tend to experience a larger degree of mismatch. Cohort effects are also evident in the data: College-educated males of the younger cohort (NLSY97) are worse off in terms of match quality compared to the older cohort (NLSY79), even as the younger cohort of women is doing better on average.

The Relationship between Prejudice and Wage Penalties for Gay Men in the United States

Source: Ian Burn, ILR Review, Volume 73 Issue 3, May 2020
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From the abstract:
This article estimates the empirical relationship between prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuality and the wages of gay men in the United States. It combines data on prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuality from the General Social Survey with data on wages from the U.S. Decennial Censuses and American Community Surveys—both aggregated to the state level. The author finds that a one standard deviation increase in the share of individuals in a state who are prejudiced toward homosexuals is correlated with a decrease in the wages of gay men of between 2.7% and 4.0%. The results also suggest that the prejudice of managers is responsible for this correlation. The author finds that a one standard deviation increase in the share of the managers in a state who are prejudiced toward homosexuals is associated with a 1.9% decrease in the wages of gay men. The author finds no evidence that the wage penalty for gay men is correlated with the prejudice of customers or co-workers.