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Accounting for United States Household Income Inequality Trends: The Changing Importance of Household Structure and Male and Female Labor Earnings Inequality

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Using a shift‐share analysis on March CPS data, this paper estimates the degree to which changes in labor earnings, employment, and marriage patterns account for household income inequality growth in the United States since 1979. The factors contributing to the rapid rise in income inequality in the 1980s differ substantially from those contributing to its slower increase since that time. Unlike findings for the 1980s when changes in the correlation of spouses' earnings accounted for income inequality growth, this factor is no longer a major contributor toward its continued increase. Additionally, the 2000s business cycle is the first full business cycle in at least 30 years where changes in earnings of male household heads accounted for declines in income inequality. Instead, the continued growth in income inequality in the 2000s was accounted for primarily by increases in female earnings inequality and declines in both male and female employment.
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Keywords: D31; J12; earnings correlations; income inequality decomposition

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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