How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?
How sensitive are the earnings of top earners to business cycles? And, how does the business cycle sensitivity of top earners vary by industry? We use a confidential dataset on earnings histories of US males from the Social Security Administration. On average, individuals in the top 1% of the earnings distribution are slightly more cyclical than the population average. But there are large differences across sectors: Top earners in Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) and Construction face substantial business cycle volatility, whereas those in Services (who make up 40% of individuals in the top 1 percent) have earnings that are less cyclical than the average worker.
You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.