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Zipf's Law, Pareto's Law, and the Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States

Shuhei Aoki and Makoto Nirei ()

American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 2017, vol. 9, issue 3, 36-71

Abstract: We construct a tractable neoclassical growth model that generates Pareto's law of income distribution and Zipf's law of the firm size distribution from idiosyncratic, firm-level productivity shocks. Executives and entrepreneurs invest in risk-free assets, as well as their own firms' risky stocks, through which their wealth and income depend on firm-level shocks. By using the model, we evaluate how changes in tax rates can account for the evolution of top incomes in the United States. The model matches the decline in the Pareto exponent of the income distribution and the trend of the top 1 percent income share in recent decades.

JEL-codes: D31 H24 L11 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
Note: DOI: 10.1257/mac.20150051
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