The Great Separation

The Great Separation

Top Earner Segregation at Work in High-Income Countries
O. Godechot, A. Baudour, M. Safi, M. Soener et al.
  • Image: Aunging (via Shutterstock)Image: Aunging (via Shutterstock)

num. 20/3 CoverMaxPo Discussion Paper, N° 20/3 (June 2020), 71 p.


Olivier Godechot, Paula Apascaritei, István Boza, Lasse Henriksen, Are Skeie Hermansen, Feng Hou, Naomi Kodama, Alena Křížková, Jiwook Jung, Marta Elvira, Silvia Maja Melzer, Eunmi Mun, Halil Sabanci, Max Thaning, Nina Bandelj, Alexis Baudour, Dustin Avent-Holt, Aleksandra Kanjuo-Mrčela, Zoltán Lippényi, Andrew Penner, Trond Petersen, Andreja Poje, William Rainey, Mirna Safi, Matthew Soener, and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey.


Analyzing linked employer-employee panel administrative databases, we study the evolving isolation of higher earners from other employees in eleven countries: Canada, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Norway, Spain, South Korea, and Sweden. We find in almost all countries a growing workplace isolation of top earners and dramatically declining exposure of top earners to bottom earners. We compare these trends to segregation based on occupational class, education, age, gender, and nativity, finding that the rise in top earner isolation is much more dramatic and general across countries. We find that residential segregation is also growing, although more slowly than segregation at work, with top earners and bottom earners increasingly living in different distinct municipalities. While work and residential segregation are correlated, statistical modeling suggests that the primary causal effect is from work to residential segregation. These findings open up a future research program on the causes and consequences of top earner segregation.


"In many countries, segregation at work and reorganization of economic activities fueled increased socioeconomic segregation between large wealthy metropolises, notably global cities, and deprived hinterlands. In recent elections in the UK (Brexit 2016), the US (2016 presidential election), and France (2017 presidential election), the vote became massively polarized between coastal states and inner states in the US, or between global capital cities (London, Paris) and the rest of the country."

The Working Paper is downloaded from Sciences Po Institutional Repository Spire here.

Back to top