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The Curious Incident of Luxury Imports during the Top-Income Surge

Stephanie Houle, Pau Pujolas () and Michael Veall ()

Economics Bulletin, 2019, vol. 39, issue 2, 1479-1487

Abstract: Atkinson, Piketty and Saez (2011) find a post-1979 surge in taxfiler top income shares in "English speaking countries" (surge countries) but not in "continental European countries and Japan" (no-surge countries). Working at a similarly high level of abstraction, we find the puzzle that import-to-GDP ratios and import-to-total-import ratios for luxuries (pearls, precious stones, diamonds, works of art, jewellery, furs and coins) do not increase post-1979 in surge countries relative to no-surge countries. Explanations could include potential flaws in the taxfiler or import data, or that top income individuals do not have a particularly high marginal propensity to import these luxury goods. Overall, we believe that this is a fragment of evidence that there may not have been a large post-1979 increase in top-end domestic consumption inequality in surge countries compared to no-surge countries.

Keywords: income distribution; taxfiler data, luxury goods (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D3 F1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019-06-15
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