Trends in earnings volatility using linked administrative and survey data
There is currently a debate in the literature about whether income volatility has increased or decreased over the past decade. To help resolve this, the researchers will link the Current Population Survey to the Social Security Administration’s detailed earnings records data. This unique data is essential for understanding earnings, as previous research demonstrates that earnings in household surveys differ from those measured in administrative data—especially at the top and bottom of the income distribution. Determining whether the recent increase in income volatility (as shown in papers using household survey data) also occurs in the administrative earnings data is important in evaluating the changing well-being of individuals and families. It also impacts the measures of inequality. Decreasing volatility may suggest decreasing inequality, which contradicts many recent estimates of the change in inequality in the United States. This work is critical to understanding the nature of inequality in the United States today and the level of income volatility Americans may be experiencing.