Life cycle income profiles

Many economists and policymakers are worried about stagnating wages and rising inequality in the United States. However, available data pertains mostly to point-in-time measures with inadequate evidence on trends in lifetime earnings due to the scarcity of individual earnings histories over a sufficiently long period.

In a paper in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, authors Fatih Guvenen, Greg Kaplan, Jae Song, and Justin Weidner fill in this data gap by constructing measurements from US Social Security Administration records to show how lifetime earnings have changed for cohorts born between 1957 and 1983.

Their findings revealed important differences between men and women. In particular, figure 5 from the authors’ paper shows how the incomes for cohorts in each gender evolved over their careers.


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