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Measuring income and wealth at the top using administrative and survey data

Brookings – Jesse Bricker, Alice Henriques, Jacob Krimmel and John Sabelhaus: “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.”

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