The Great Separation: Top Earner Segregation at Work in High-income Countries

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperResearch


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.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherMax Planck Sciences Po Center
Number of pages69
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesMaxPo Discussion Paper


  • Work
  • Earnings
  • Segregation
  • Inequality
  • Elite

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