Emmanuel Saez

Research Expertise and Interest

inequality, taxation, redistribution

Research Description

Emmanuel Saez is the Chancellor's Professorship of Tax Policy and Public Finance and a Professor of Economics and Director of the Stone Center on Wealth and Income Inequality at the University of California Berkeley. He received his PhD in Economics from MIT in 1999. His research focuses on inequality and tax policy. Jointly with Thomas Piketty, he created the top income share series that show a dramatic increase in US inequality since 1980. The data have been widely discussed in the public debate. His 2019 book "The Triumph of Injustice", joint with his colleague Gabriel Zucman, narrates the demise of US progressive taxation and how to reinvent it in the 21st century. 

In the News

Wall Street protests echo researcher’s findings on growing income gap

Emmanuel Saez, a UC Berkeley economist, received a 2010 MacArthur “genius” award for his research on the growing income gains of super-wealthy American households and the parallel income erosion of the other 99 percent of the nation. In a Q & A, Saez talks about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, in light of his work.

Saez wins AEA prize for tax paper

Emmanuel Saez, the E. Morris Cox Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, has been named by the American Economic Association as recipient of the first ever American Economic Journal: Economic Policy “Best Paper Prize” for his “Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?”

Two young faculty members named MacArthur 'genius' fellows

Two UC Berkeley faculty members, economist Emmanuel Saez and computer scientist Dawn Song, have been named MacArthur "genius" Fellows. They are among 23 recipients to receive the prestigious award – $500,000 in unrestricted funds over the next five years – announced Sept. 28 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
December 9, 2021
The globe's 2,750 billionaires now control 3 percent of all wealth, up from 1 percent in 1995 — that makes them wealthier than half the planet, according to a new report from a group founded by economist Thomas Piketty. The wealth gap is roughly as wide as it was more than a century ago when the Gilded Age led to massive disparities between rich and poor, the World Inequality Lab found. The study was coordinated by Piketty, an expert on inequality known for his book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," as well as fellow inequality experts Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley.
March 19, 2020
Associated Press
As financial markets worldwide plummet, infected by fear and uncertainty over the COVID-19 coronavirus, Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman published a paper this week, predicting that the U.S. gross domestic product could contract by more than 7% this year if more parts of the country impose shelter-in-place orders like those the Bay Area has instituted through April 7, at least. They believe our government must become a "payer of last resort" for businesses and individuals who may be unable to pay their bills during the crisis. "The government can prevent a very sharp but short recession from becoming a long-lasting depression," they say.
February 24, 2020
Scott Jaschik
As long as most colleges employ SAT or ACT test scores as key measures for admission, it will be difficult for them to attract more low-income students, suggests a new working paper co-authored by economics professors Emmanuel Saez and Danny Yagan for the National Bureau of Economic Research. That's because wealthier students tend to perform better on the tests. A solution, they propose, would be to give students from middle- and low-income families a "bonus" of 64 to 160 points on the SAT test. Link to the paper at OpportunityInsights.org.
February 21, 2020
Jim Tankersley, Ben Casselman
An in-depth profile of Berkeley economists Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez begins: "One of the most liberal policy proposals animating the Democratic presidential primaries is the handiwork of two French economists who are not formally advising any campaign and have barely met the candidates running for the White House. ... [They] are the driving force behind proposals for a wealth tax, an idea embraced by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as a way to reduce economic inequality by forcing the richest Americans to pay taxes on everything they own and diverting that money to public services like universal health care and free college tuition. ... Their efforts documenting a sharp increase in the concentration of wealth at the very top and their outspokenness have vaulted the tax from a fringe idea in American politics to the center of a reinvigorated debate on taxing the rich." In an interview, they talked about their research and their critics. Referring to voters' unhappiness with inequality in the U.S., Professor Zucman said: "Clearly it's been central to the campaign," but he adds: "Let me be very clear that the wealth tax is not going to solve all these problems. It's part of the solution."
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February 12, 2020
Dana Goldstein and Anemona Hartocollis
Simply giving middle-class and low-income students an SAT "bonus" of 64 to 160 points -- essentially equaling the advantage seen in legacy admissions at selective colleges -- would significantly reduce socio-economic segregation in higher education, concludes a new study, co-authored by economics professors Emmanuel Saez and Danny Yagan. The study found, among other things, that three-quarters of affluent students with a 1080 SAT score attended one of the 976 selective colleges studied, compared to half of the students from the lowest income bracket with the same score.
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October 16, 2019
An article on economists' shifting thoughts on wealth taxes focuses on the work of Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Professors Saez and Zucman have found that the top 0.1% of taxpayers accounted for about 20% of American wealth in 2012, up from 7% of wealth in 1978 and close to levels last seen in 1929. They believe that concentrated wealth leads to concentration of political power, and that undermines democracy. But they say there are other concerns, as well. For example, in a recent paper they noted that the ratio of household wealth to national income in the U.S. has nearly doubled over the past 40 years, largely due to the rising value of assets. Those higher asset values could mean that either companies are becoming more efficient or economic sclerosis is setting in. Property values may be increasing because regulations make it difficult to build, and higher stock prices could mean that markets are becoming less competitive. Taxing and redistributing wealth could thus be seen as a justified response to misfiring markets.
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October 9, 2019
Christopher Ingraham
For the first time in history, the 400 wealthiest Americans paid a lower effective tax rate than the working class did in 2018, according to new data presented in a book co-authored by Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. The book, called The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, explores how this trend developed and how it could be reversed. According to this reporter: "The relatively small tax burden of the super rich is the product of decades of choices made by American lawmakers, some deliberate, others the result of indecisiveness or inertia, Saez and Zucman say. Congress has repeatedly slashed top income tax rates, for instance, and cut taxes on capital gains and estates. Lawmakers also have failed to provide adequate funding for IRS enforcement efforts and allowed multinational companies to shelter their profits in low-tax nations. ... But the tipping point came in 2017, with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The legislation, championed by President Trump and then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, was a windfall for the wealthy: It lowered the top income tax bracket and slashed the corporate tax rate." Stories on this topic have appeared in nearly 100 sources, including the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle Online, and the New York Times.
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October 7, 2019
David Leonhardt
The 400 wealthiest Americans paid a lower total tax rate than any other income group last year, according to new data in a book co-authored by Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. The book, called The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, is set for release next week, and according to this columnist, it's "the most important book on government policy that I've read in a long time." He continues: "They have constructed a historical database that tracks the tax payments of households at different points along the income spectrum going back to 1913, when the federal income tax began. The story they tell is maddening -- and yet ultimately energizing. ... 'Many people have the view that nothing can be done,' Zucman told me. 'Our case is, "No, that's wrong. Look at history."' As they write in the book: 'Societies can choose whatever level of tax progressivity they want.' When the United States has raised tax rates on the wealthy and made rigorous efforts to collect those taxes, it has succeeded in doing so. ... And it can succeed again."
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January 15, 2019
Leonid Bershidsky
In their prominent 2018 study, "Distributional National Accounts," French economist Thomas Picketty and Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman concluded that increased income concentration at the top over the past 15 years was primarily due to accelerated income from equity and bonds. Their suggestion was that income distribution has become less fair, with greater wealth coming more from the snowballing of investments than from so-called human capital or talent. Now, a new paper called "Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century," co-authored by assistant economics professor Danny Yagan, disputes that conclusion, with the argument that roughly three-quarters of the highest U.S. earners' pass-through business income is attributable to returns on human capital. They came to their conclusion by comparing income at firms where working-age owners had either died or retired to those where the owners were still active. They found that profits accruing to owners tended to drop by more than three-quarters after death or retirement.
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