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Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994

  • Thomas Piketty
  • Gilles Postel-Vinay
  • Jean-Laurent Rosenthal

Using large samples of estate tax returns, we construct new series on wealth concentration in Paris and France from 1807 to 1994. Inequality increased until 1914 because industrial and financial estates grew dramatically. Then, adverse shocks, rather than a Kuznets-type process, led to a massive decline in inequality. The very high wealth concentration prior to 1914 benefited retired individuals living off capital income (rentiers) rather than entrepreneurs. The very rich were in their seventies and eighties, whereas they had been in their fifties a half century earlier and would be so again after World War II. Our results shed new light on ongoing debates about wealth inequality and growth.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 96 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 236-256

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:1:p:236-256
Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282806776157614
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  1. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
  2. Lindert, Peter H, 1986. "Unequal English Wealth since 1670," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(6), pages 1127-62, December.
  3. Peter H. Lindert, . "Three Centuries Of Inequality In Britain And America," Department of Economics 97-09, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  4. A. B. Atkinson, 2005. "Top incomes in the UK over the 20th century," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 325-343.
  5. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
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