Changing American Earnings Distributions: One-Half Century of Experience

Empirical Economics, No. 22, 1997

Posted: 20 Apr 1998

See all articles by John A. Bishop

John A. Bishop

East Carolina University - College of Business

John P. Formby

University of Alabama - Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies

Paul D. Thistle

University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Department of Finance

Abstract

Recent increases in earnings inequality have been described as "enormous." Is it that we are experiencing a unique shift toward greater inequality, or are we returning to a more normal state of affairs for the American economy? The recent availability of six decades of data together with important new developments in the theory and measurement of inequality invite a renewed look at the changes in earnings inequality over the past half century. Our findings for male earnings suggest a dramatic contraction in inequality after 1939 followed by a steady rise in earnings inequality through 1989. Focusing on per capita incomes as opposed to earnings eliminates much of the trend toward rising inequality.

JEL Classification: D31, J30

Suggested Citation

Bishop, John A. and Formby, John P. and Thistle, Paul D., Changing American Earnings Distributions: One-Half Century of Experience. Empirical Economics, No. 22, 1997, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=78148

John A. Bishop

East Carolina University - College of Business ( email )

Department of Economics
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
United States

John P. Formby

University of Alabama - Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies ( email )

P.O. Box 870244
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States
205-348-8667 (Phone)
205-348-0590 (Fax)

Paul D. Thistle (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Department of Finance ( email )

4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States
702-895-3856 (Phone)
702-895-4650 (Fax)

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