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

Author

Listed:
  • Willaim G. Gale

    (Brookings Institution)

  • Karen M. Pence

    (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Willaim G. Gale & Karen M. Pence, 2006. "Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(1), pages 155-234.
  • Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:37:y:2006:i:2006-1:p:155-234
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Aura, Saku, 2005. "Does the balance of power within a family matter? The case of the Retirement Equity Act," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1699-1717, September.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. David A. Wise & Steven F. Venti, 1993. "The Wealth of Cohorts: Retirement Saving and the Changing Assets of Older Americans," NBER Working Papers 4600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. 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 435-453, December.
    8. 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.
    9. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence From Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 445-487, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Y. Mathä & Alessandro Porpiglia & Michael Ziegelmeyer, 2014. "Wealth differences across borders and the effect of real estate price dynamics: Evidence from two household surveys," BCL working papers 90, Central Bank of Luxembourg.
    2. Mathä, Thomas Y. & Porpiglia, Alessandro & Ziegelmeyer, Michael, 2017. "Household wealth in the euro area: The importance of intergenerational transfers, homeownership and house price dynamics," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 1-12.
    3. David A. Love & Paul A. Smith & Lucy C. McNair, 2008. "A new look at the wealth adequacy of older U.S. households," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2008-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. J. Michael Collins & John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri, 2013. "The Assets and Liabilities of Cohorts: The Antecedents of Retirement Security," Working Papers wp296, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    wealth; macroeconomics; generations; birth cohorts; capital gains;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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