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Gender disparities in top earnings: measurement and facts for Denmark 1980-2013


Extending the work of Atkinson et al. (J. Econ. Inequal. 16, 225–256, 2018), we decompose top-earnings gender disparities into a glass-ceiling coefficient and a top-earnings gender gap. The decomposition uses that both male and female top earnings are Pareto distributed. If interpreting top-earnings gender disparities as caused by a female-specific earnings tax, the top-earnings gender gap and glass-ceiling coefficient measure the tax level and tax progressivity, respectively. Using Danish data on earnings, we show that the top-earnings gender gap and the glass-ceiling coefficient evolve differently across time, the life cycle, and educational groups. In particular, while the top-earnings gender gap has been decreasing in Denmark over the period 1980-2013, the glass-ceiling coefficient has been remarkably stable.


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We are very grateful for comments from the editor, anonymous referees, Arizo Karimi, Oskar Nordström Skans and seminar participants at CBS, IIES, and UC Santa Barbara. All errors are our own. The views herein are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the IMF, its Executive Board, or its management. Funding from Lars Hierta’s Foundation and Handelsbanken’s Research Foundations is gratefully acknowledged.


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Correspondence to Erik Öberg.

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Hansen, NJ.H., Harmenberg, K., Öberg, E. et al. Gender disparities in top earnings: measurement and facts for Denmark 1980-2013. J Econ Inequal 19, 347–362 (2021).

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  • Decomposition
  • Gender gap
  • Glass ceiling
  • Summary statistics