# Distribution of Wages

Is there any paper that looks at the distribution of wages? I'd like to see how many workers are in each percentile of labor income. I know that you could compute it using CPS or US tax data, but I suppose somebody must have done that before..

• 1% of workers are in each percentile kinda by definition, no? :) Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:37
• Well, I stated it completely (but consistently) the wrong way. I phrased the percentiles as labor income :/ Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:43
• Do you want to know total income earned (yearly) or do you want to know the distribution of earning power (like, distribution of hourly wages---or hours worked in combination with income)? Could you clarify? Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:45
• The former is sufficient. However, I guess the latter is more informative, so more information always beats less information (also for future visitors of this question). Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:58

Based on the 2010 US Census, Wikipedia has pretty much exactly what you seem to be looking for.

A sample graph:

though they of course also have tables and links to more data.

Or if you prefer raw data, the IRS SOI is available for 1996-2012.

And of course there's Piketty and Saez seminal paper on the subject (See Table 5 for their data analogous to the included Wikipedia picture)

And of course there's the BLS which publishes these things regularly by demographic, hourly only, or occupation/industry.

• It could be that the OP is looking for wages rather than income (like, hourly wages versus total yearly income earned). Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:40
• could be, though would one not normally just divide by 2000 for US data? Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:41
• No, because you don't know how many hours each individual worked (not average hours worked, I mean how many hours each individual worked). The question is important if you want to know something akin to the distribution of skill---or at least earning power---in the population. Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:43
• that's problematic because high skill workers in the US are almost often (if not predominantly) salaried. Though you might be able to use the BLS data I just added for some of that. Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:45
• Cool. Thanks. Yeah, problematic to find/estimate the figures, but still important to know. (I'm thinking about Mirrlees optimal taxation again.) Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:47