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Trends In Aggregate Household Wealth In The Us., 1900–83


  • EdwardN. Wolff


New estimates of aggregate household wealth for the U S. covering selected years in the period from 1900 to 1983 are presented. I find that marketable wealth per capita grew at 1.46 percent per year in real terms over the 1900–83 period, while real wealth per household grew at 0.81 percent per year. However, the growth rate was not uniform over the period, with the rates high during the 1900–29 and the 1949–69 periods, and slow during the other years. Moreover, real per capita wealth actually increased more slowly than real per capita disposable income and real per capita GNP over the century. I also find dramatic changes in the composition of household wealth over the century. In particular, both tangibles and fixed claim assets increased relative to total assets over the period from 1900 to 1983, while equities fell from about half to a quarter. Owner‐occupied housing increased only moderately as a proportion of assets, from 17 percent in 1900 to 20 percent in 1983. Unincorporated business equity fell from over a third of total assets to 12 percent. Among financial assets, the biggest relative growth occurred in deposits in financial institutions, which grew from 8 percent in 1900 to 22 percent in 1983. Corporate stock had the most volatile behavior in the household portfolio, growing from 13 percent of total assets in 1900 to 27 percent in 1929, falling to 10 percent in 1949, rising to 22 percent in 1965, and then falling to 11 percent by 1983. Debt as a proportion of total assets rose from 5 percent in 1900 to 16 percent in 1983. Finally, both pension reserves and social security wealth increased relative to marketable assets from virtually zero in 1900 to 12 and 48 percent, respectively.

Suggested Citation

  • EdwardN. Wolff, 1989. "Trends In Aggregate Household Wealth In The Us., 1900–83," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 35(1), pages 1-29, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:35:y:1989:i:1:p:1-29
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4991.1989.tb00580.x

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    Cited by:

    1. Aroop Chatterjee & Léo Czajka & Amory Gethin, 2020. "Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa," Working Papers hal-02876974, HAL.
    2. Thomas Piketty, 2011. "On the Long-Run Evolution of Inheritance: France 1820--2050," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1071-1131.
    3. Aaron, Henry J. & Munnell, Alicia H., 1992. "Reassessing the Role for Wealth Transfer Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(2), pages 119-43, June.

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