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New Data on Income Inequality

Greg Mankiw sees a little bit of good news in the latest income distribution data: after rising astonishingly rapidly from 1986 to 2000, income inequality in 2004 was no worse than in 2000:

Greg Mankiw's Blog: New Data on Income Inequality: In today's NY Times, Paul Krugman calls attention to the update of the Piketty-Saez data on income inequality, although Paul describes the data differently than I would.Here is what I see: After rising substantially from 1986 to 2000, income inequality is essentially the same in 2004 (the most recent year of data) as it was in 2000.

I hope he's right, and that the trend of rising inequality has stopped--it is a very disturbing phenomenon, and further rises would be very worrisome indeed. But I can't be as optimistic as he is. He sees an essentially flat trend from 2000-2004. I see numbers for 1999 and 2000 that may have been transitorily boosted by high salaries paid during the dot-com bubble, and then a decreased in inequality from 2000-2002--a decrease that is then reversed in 2003-2004, which carries us up to bubble levels.

So my hope that we might not see 1999 and 2000 levels of income inequality again appears to have been vain.

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