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Family, Education, and Sources of Wealth among the Richest Americans, 1982-2012

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  • Steven N. Kaplan
  • Joshua D. Rauh

Abstract

We examine characteristics of the 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States over the past three decades as tabulated by Forbes Magazine, and analyze which theories of increasing inequality are most consistent with these data. The people of the Forbes 400 in recent years did not grow up as advantaged as in decades past. They are more likely to have started their businesses and to have grown up upper-middle class, not wealthy. Today's Forbes 400 were able to access education while young, and apply their skills to the most scalable industries: technology, finance, and mass retail. Most of the change occurred by 2001.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua D. Rauh, 2013. "Family, Education, and Sources of Wealth among the Richest Americans, 1982-2012," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 158-162, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:3:p:158-62
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.3.158
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.103.3.158
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua Rauh, 2010. "Wall Street and Main Street: What Contributes to the Rise in the Highest Incomes?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(3), pages 1004-1050, March.
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    6. Xavier Gabaix, 2009. "Power Laws in Economics and Finance," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 255-294, May.
    7. Edward N. Wolff, 2010. "Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States-- Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze--An Update to 2007," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_589, Levy Economics Institute.
    8. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-858, December.
    9. Klass, Oren S. & Biham, Ofer & Levy, Moshe & Malcai, Ofer & Solomon, Sorin, 2006. "The Forbes 400 and the Pareto wealth distribution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 290-295, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    1. Some Links
      by Don Boudreaux in Cafe Hayek on 2016-09-14 19:02:52

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    Cited by:

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    2. Kornai, János, 2015. "Milyen is hát a tőke a 21. században?. Megjegyzések Piketty könyvéhez [So what is capital in the 21st century?. Notes on Piketty s book]," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(9), pages 909-942.
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    4. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Leigh, Andrew K., 2022. "“Beauty too rich for use”: Billionaires’ assets and attractiveness," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    5. Ulrike Schaede, 2022. "The Digital Transformation (DX) and the Financialization of Japan: A Case Study of Private Equity," IMES Discussion Paper Series 22-E-18, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan.
    6. Saibal Ghosh, 2016. "Billionaire Wealth, Firm Performance and Financial Crisis: An Empirical Analysis for India," South Asian Journal of Macroeconomics and Public Finance, , vol. 5(2), pages 133-156, December.
    7. Michelacci, Claudio & Schivardi, Fabiano, 2020. "Are they all like Bill, Mark, and Steve? The education premium for entrepreneurs," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    8. Samuel Antill & David Hou & Asani Sarkar, 2014. "Components of U.S. financial sector growth, 1950-2013," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Dec, pages 59-83.
    9. Majid Ghorbani & Michael Carney, 2016. "The changing face of China’s billionaire-entrepreneurs," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 881-902, December.
    10. Obschonka, Martin & Fisch, Christian & Boyd, Ryan, 2017. "Using digital footprints in entrepreneurship research: A Twitter-based personality analysis of superstar entrepreneurs and managers," Journal of Business Venturing Insights, Elsevier, vol. 8(C), pages 13-23.
    11. Florida, Richard & Mellander, Charlotta, 2017. "The Geography of the Global Super-Rich," Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation 448, Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies.
    12. Nason, Robert S. & Carney, Michael & Le Breton-Miller, Isabelle & Miller, Danny, 2019. "Who cares about socioemotional wealth? SEW and rentier perspectives on the one percent wealthiest business households," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 144-158.
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    14. Isabelle Le Breton-Miller & Danny Miller, 2018. "Beyond the Firm: Business Families as Entrepreneurs," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, , vol. 42(4), pages 527-536, July.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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