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Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?

  • Willaim G. Gale

    (Brookings Institution)

  • Karen M. Pence

    (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System)

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    This paper examines the wealth of successive birth cohorts in the United States using data from the 1989-2001 Surveys of Consumer Finances. We find that older households (those aged 55-64, 65-74 or 75-84) in 2001 had more wealth than households of similar age in 1989, but that the same was not true of younger households. We also find that changes in standard demographic characteristics (marital status, educational attainment, years in the labor force, and health status) can explain most of the divergent trends across age groups. Given the historically large capital gains that accrued during the 1990s, these results raise some intriguing questions about the nature of saving and wealth accumulation during that decade.

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    File URL: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/Programs/ES/BPEA/2006_1_bpea_papers/2006a_bpea_gale.pdf
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    Article provided by Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution in its journal Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

    Volume (Year): 37 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 155-234

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    Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:37:y:2006:i:2006-1:p:155-234
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    1. Sabelhaus, John & Pence, Karen, 1999. "Household Saving in the '90s: Evidence from Cross-Section Wealth Surveys," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 45(4), pages 435-53, December.
    2. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1996. "The Wealth of Cohorts: Retirement Saving and the Changing Assets of Older Americans," NBER Working Papers 5609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. William G. Gale, 1998. "The Effects of Pensions on Household Wealth: A Reevaluation of Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(4), pages 706-723, August.
    4. Barsky R. & Bound J. & Charles K.K. & Lupton J.P., 2002. "Accounting for the Black-White Wealth Gap: A Nonparametric Approach," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 97, pages 663-673, September.
    5. Dora L. Costa, 2000. "From Mill Town to Board Room: The Rise of Women's Paid Labor," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 101-122, Fall.
    6. Karen Pence & John Sabelhaus, 1999. "Household Saving in the '90s: Evidence from Cross-Section Wealth Surveys: Technical Paper 1999-3," Working Papers 13345, Congressional Budget Office.
    7. Ana M. Aizcorbe & Arthur B. Kennickell & Kevin B. Moore, 2003. "Recent changes in U.S. family finances: evidence from the 1998 and 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-32.
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