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Capital Shares and Income Inequality: Evidence from the Long Run

Journal article
Authors Erik Bengtsson
Daniel Waldenström
Published in Journal of Economic History
Volume 78
Issue 3
Pages 712-743
ISSN 0022-0507
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Economic History
Pages 712-743
Language en
Keywords Capital share; Top incomes-; Wealth; Inequality; Economic history; Functional income distribution
Subject categories Economics, Economic History


This paper studies the long-run relationship between the capital share in national income and top personal income shares. Using a newly constructed historical cross-country database on capital shares and top income data, we find evidence on a strong, positive link that has grown stronger over the past century. The connection is stronger in Anglo-Saxon countries, in the very top of the distribution, when top capital incomes predominate, when using distributed top national income shares, and when considering gross of depreciation capital shares. Out of-sample predictions of top shares using capital shares indicates several cases of over- or underestimation.

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