Emmanuel Saez of Berkeley wins the John Bates Clark Medal for 2009, awarded by the American Economic Association every two years (yearly from this year) to a promising young economist below the age of 40. Saez has used tax records and other information to reconstruct the long-term history of income distribution, effective tax rates, and more. Saez has written about the widening inequality in the US,
"The labor market has been creating much more inequality over the last thirty years, with the very top earners capturing a large fraction of macroeconomic productivity gains. A number of factors may help explain this increase in inequality, not only underlying technological changes but also the retreat of institutions developed during the New Deal and World War II - such as progressive tax policies, powerful unions, corporate provision of health and retirement benefits, and changing social norms regarding pay inequality. We need to decide as a society whether this increase in income inequality is efficient and acceptable and, if not, what mix of institutional reforms should be developed to counter it."
David Warsh has this account of Saez.
Latest, updated version of Saez-Piketty inequality tables (tables here) show that US inequality continues on its inexorable upward trend. It shows that from 2006 to 2007, while average real income per family grew by a solid 3.7%, the same for the top percentile grew faster at a rate of 6.8%, further increasing the top percentile income share from 22.8 to 23.5%, the highest recorded share for them since 1928.
Update 3 (6/3/2012)
Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have their latest income share graphic, updated for 2011,
This suggests that the Great Recession will only depress top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s. Indeed, excluding realized capital gains, the top decile share in 2010 is equal to 46.3%, higher than in 2007...