Top Incomes in the Long Run of History

01 March 2011

Journal of Economic Literature

Atkinson, Anthony B., Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez. 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History." Journal of Economic Literature, 49(1): 3–71. DOI:10.1257/jel.49.1.3


Top incomes represent a small share of the population but a very significant share of total income and total taxes paid. Hence, aggregate economic growth per capita and Gini inequality indexes are sensitive to excluding or including top incomes. We discuss the estimation methods and issues that arise when constructing top income share series, including income definition and comparability over time and across countries, tax avoidance, and tax evasion.