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The Rich, the Affluent and the Top Incomes

The article reviews the literature on the rich, the affluent and the top income earners focusing on the determinants of affluence or richness. The review surveys empirical results about the composition of the income and wealth of the rich and its direct determinants, such as individual characteristics, the state and the structure of production. The article covers literature beginning with the early twentieth century but pays special attention to research conducted after the 2000s. It attempts to cover studies from all regions of the world, despite the concentration of current research on developed countries. The main conclusion is that factors not related to productivity are a key determinant of affluence and that this has not changed much over the last century.