Becker Friedman Institute

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Top Earners: Cross-Country Facts

We provide a common set of life-cycle earnings statistics based on administrative data from the United States, Canada, Denmark and Sweden. We find three qualitative patterns, which are common across countries. First, top-earnings inequality increases over the working lifetime. Second, the extreme right tail of the earnings distribution becomes thicker with age over the working lifetime. Third, top lifetime earners exhibit dramatically higher earnings growth over their working lifetime. Models of top earners should account for these three patterns and, importantly, for how they quantitatively differ across countries.

Authors: 
Alejandro Badel, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Georgetown University
Moira Daly, Copenhagen Business School
Mark Huggett, Georgetown University
Martin Nybom, Stockholm University
Publication Date: 
August, 2017
HCEO Working Groups: 
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2017-061
File Description: 
First version, June 22, 2017