Inequality and top income shares in Canada: Recent trends and policy implications

Inequality has increased in the majority of rich countries, but the share of income and earnings going to the top has increased most in the anglophone countries.  McMaster University economist Mike Veall says Canada has not escaped this trend, and argues that a public policy response is needed.

The underlying causes of, in his words, “the surge” in the shares of the top 1%, one-tenth of 1% and even the top one-hundredth of 1% in Canada remain elusive. Even so these changes should motivate at least three policy responses that could be supported across the political spectrum.

Professor Veall was the 2012 president of the Canadian Economics Association, the professional association of economists based in Canada, and presented his presidential address at the annual meetings of the Association held last June at the University of Calgary.

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Inequality and Occupy Wall Street 8: causes of growing inequality and policies to address it

This video of a panel discussion called “The Challenges of Growing Inequality” organized by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University features a discussion by Lawerence Katz, a prominent labour economist. Katz speaks on the causes of inequality and offers advice to Occupiers on what should be done about it.

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Inequality and Occupy Wall Street 3: the top 1% are superstars

To explain the fact that the top 1% now take home a larger share of total earnings than they ever have since the 1940s Occupiers need to understand the economics of superstars.

Talent is unique. Or as the late University of Chicago economist Sherwin Rosen stated, “hearing a succession of mediocre singers does not add up to a single outstanding performance.” When he was at his best there was only one Wayne Gretzky, and I guess that is why they nicknamed him “the Great One.” To those of us listening to the opera, or watching the hockey game, the superstar is one-of-a-kind. And because there are no substitutes they get paid much more than even the second best.

This only explains that there is a top 1%, and that as the most talented they get paid a good deal more than the rest of us. It does not explain what has changed, why have they been taking away a bigger and bigger slice of the pie since about 1980.

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