How Accessible is the Top? The Changing Rigidity of High Incomes and Earnings

Awarded Scholars:
Fabian Pfeffer, University of Michigan
Lloyd Grieger, Yale University
Project Date:
Jan 2016
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

Recent evidence suggests that a substantial part of the rise in economic inequality over the last four decades is driven by gains at the top of the economic ladder, especially for those at and within the top 1%. Fabian Pfeffer and Lloyd Grieger will examine the permeability of the top of the income distribution and explore whether many different people cycle in and out of affluence, or if these top positions are reserved for a few who occupy them consistently or frequently. They will analyze several key data sources in order to estimate the proportion of individuals that ever experience affluence during adulthood based on observed lifetime earnings or income. They will also compare access to top positions by older and younger cohorts to identify which key demographic characteristics (such as race, gender, education) are associated with entry into the top positions.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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