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Measuring wage inequality under right censoring

Pedro Raposo
João Nicolau
Publication Year 
JEL Code 
C18 - Methodological Issues: General
C24 - Truncated and Censored Models
E24 - Employment; Unemployment; Wages
J11 - Demographic Trends and Forecasts
J31 - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials by Skill, Training, Occupation, etc.
In this paper we investigate potential changes which may have occurred over the last two decades in the probability mass of the right tail of the wage distribution, through the analysis of the corresponding tail index. In specific, a conditional tail index estimator is introduced which explicitly allows for right tail censoring (top-coding), which is a feature of the widely used current population survey (CPS), as well as of other surveys. Ignoring the top-coding may lead to inconsistent estimates of the tail index and to under or over statements of inequality and of its evolution over time. Thus, having a tail index estimator that explicitly accounts for this sample characteristic is of importance to better understand and compute the tail index dynamics in the censored right tail of the wage distribution. The contribution of this paper is threefold: i) we introduce a conditional tail index estimator that explicitly handles the top-coding problem, and evaluate its finite sample performance and compare it with competing methods; ii) we highlight that the factor values used to adjust the top-coded wage have changed over time and depend on the characteristics of individuals, occupations and industries, and propose suitable values; and iii) we provide an in-depth empirical analysis of the dynamics of the US wage distribution’s right tail using the public-use CPS database from 1992 to 2017.
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