Women’s Progress in Cracking the Top 10

A recent working paper* using the Luxembourg Income Studies database (which makes income statistics from many countries comparable) shows some interesting progress being made by women. They have been steadily increasing their presence in the top 10% and top 1% of the income statistics, in all 28 countries (including Canada) studied by the researchers. 

Swedish researchers Roman Bobilev, Anne Boschini, Jesper Roine, show that the proportion of women in the top 10% group has increased  since the 1980’s from about 15% to close to 30% by 2010, and leveling off about that time. For the top 1%, the figure rose from about 5% to 15% in the same time frame, and also levelled off. All of the countries show similar patterns, perhaps surprisingly since the political orientation of Anglo countries,  Scandinavian countries and other European countries, varies substantially. 

The researchers observe that …having children is associated with a lower likelihood of women being in the top of the income distribution, but with the opposite being the case for men (and with the gap generally increasing in the number of children). We also find that top income women are less likely to have a partner, but conditional on having a partner, it is likely that this partner is also a high-income earner. Top income men, on the other hand, are more likely to have a partner, and this partner is more likely not to be in the top of the income distribution.

Because of data limitations, little can be said about those at the very top of the scale (eg top 0.1%). 

The researchers suggest that the similarity in patterns despite different provisions for child care services, could mean that social values regarding women and family responsibility, are having a similar impact on women’s occupational mobility in all countries. 

* Women in the Top of the Income Distribution – What Can We Learn From LIS-Data (Working Paper 773)

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