Recent decades have seen a remarkable increase in the concentration of wealth in the hands of the wealthiest in the US. This column examines which factors may have driven this increase. The evidence points to higher wage inequality, often attributed to new developments in the technology of production, as the main driving force, followed by tax cuts for top earners and more generous public transfers as secondary factors.
Markus Poschke, Barış Kaymak, 17 April 2016
Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman, 28 October 2014
Wealth inequality in the US has followed a U-shaped evolution over the last century – there was a substantial democratisation of wealth from the Great Depression to the late 1970s, followed by a sharp rise in wealth inequality. This column discusses new evidence on the concentration of wealth in the US. Growing wealth disparity is fuelled by increases in both income and saving rate inequalities between the haves and the have nots.
Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Stefanie Stantcheva, 08 December 2011
The top 1% of US earners now command a far higher share of the country's income than they did 40 years ago. This column looks at 18 OECD countries and disputes the claim that low taxes on the rich raise productivity and economic growth. It says the optimal top tax rate could be over 80% and no one but the mega rich would lose out.
Dieter M. Urban, Christoph Moser, 06 September 2010
Is international trade a source of widening wage inequality in industrial countries? This column shows that export activity in Germany contributes to wage inequality among workers with different levels of skill, but diminishes wage gaps in German manufacturing between men and women and between German citizens and non-citizens.
Enrico Moretti, 03 November 2008
The increase in the return to education is typically measured using nominal wages. The author of CEPR DP6997 looks at housing costs for high school and college graduates and discovers that, when looking at real as opposed to nominal wages, the return to education and the increase in inequality may be smaller than previously thought.
Giulia Faggio , Kjell G. Salvanes, John Van Reenen, 25 November 2007
Much of the growing wage inequality stems from increased inequality between firms rather than within firms, suggesting inequality is driven by changes in firm-level productivity related to new technology rather than to international trade or institutions. Trade protectionism or re-energising unions may do relatively little to reverse the increase in inequality.
Karolina Ekholm, Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe, 30 July 2007
In recent years, the skill premium in the US manufacturing sector is declining and the skill intensity increasing. The authors of CEPR DP6042 argue that this pattern can be linked to globalization and the rise in offshoring.
Josep Pijoan-Mas, Claudio Michelacci, 28 May 2007
Since the 1970s, the number of hours worked per employee has fallen substantially in continental Europe, while it has remained roughly constant in the US. The authors of CEPR DP6314 show that this divergence in the number of hours worked per employee on the two sides of the Atlantic can be explained by the evolution of the respective labour market conditions over the last three decades.