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Top Incomes in Sweden over the Twentieth Century

by Jesper Roine (with D. Waldenström), published in the Atkinson and Piketty's (eds.) "Top Incomes over the Twentieth Century: Volume II, A Global Perspective"

Sweden has, thanks to its tradition as an egalitarian society, attracted a disproportionate interest from inequality scholars. However, two important aspects have largely been overlooked.

First, the lack of available micro data has led to most studies not going further back than to 1968. We do not know, for example, to what extent the equal distribution of income in Sweden is mainly the outcome of the growth of the welfare state, or if Sweden perhaps has a history of being an egalitarian society.

Second, the focus on welfare issues has resulted in most studies concentrating on general measures of the distribution, such as the Gini coefficient, or on the lower parts of it, but no attention has been paid to details of top incomes.

This chapter addresses these two shortcomings by providing new homogenous series on top income shares in Sweden, starting at the time of the introduction of the modern tax system in 1902 and until today. We also propose ways of explaining these developments.

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