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The Weight of the Rich: Improving Surveys Using Tax Data

Thomas Blanchet (), Ignacio Flores () and Marc Morgan
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Marc Morgan: PSE - Paris School of Economics - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab

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Abstract: It is generally accepted that household surveys fail to accurately portray the top tail of the income distribution. Indeed, studies based on tax data challenge the credibility of surveys as a source to study inequality. To date, there is no broad consensus on how to best reconcile these two datasets. This paper presents a novel method that enables a consistent combination of these two sources of data, under the assumption that tax data sets a credible lower bound on the amount of people with given levels of income. The resulting micro-dataset preserves the consistency of other socio-demographic variables at both the individual and aggregate levels. It thus allows researchers to analyze dimensions of social inequality under a more representative distributive framework. Our procedure is illustrated by empirical applications to five countries, covering both developed and less-developed contexts over numerous years.

Keywords: Tax Data; Reweighting; Survey Representativeness; Inequality; Top incomes; Income inequality; Calibration (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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