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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Piketty & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2006. "Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 236-256, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:1:p:236-256
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282806776157614
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lindert, Peter H, 1986. "Unequal English Wealth since 1670," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(6), pages 1127-1162, December.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Lindert, Peter H., 2000. "Three centuries of inequality in Britain and America," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 3, pages 167-216 Elsevier.
    5. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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