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Secular Changes in Wealth Inequality and Inheritance

  • Laitner, John

Data suggest that the distribution of wealth among households in the USA and UK has become more equal over the last century, though, at least for the USA, the pattern may have reversed recently. This paper shows that a model in which all households save for life-cycle reasons and some for dynastic purposes as well offers a possible or partial explanation: the model predicts rising cross-sectional equality of wealth when longevity increases. There may also be implications about very recent changes: expansion of social security programmes and government deficits can lead toward more wealth inequality. Slower growth may do the same.

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Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 111 (2001)
Issue (Month): 474 (October)
Pages: 691-721

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:111:y:2001:i:474:p:691-721
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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Fumio Hayashi & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1989. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 3046, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Joseph G. Altonji & Fumio Hayashi & Laurence Kotlikoff, . "Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence," IPR working papers 95-22, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  10. W. G. Gale & J. K. Scholz, . "Intergenerational transfers and the accumulation of wealth," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1019-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
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  12. Woodford, Michael, 1986. "Stationary sunspot equilibria in a finance constrained economy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 128-137, October.
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  14. John Laitner & F. Thomas Juster, 1993. "New evidence on altruism: a study of TIAA-CREF retirees," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 86, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  16. Modigliani, Franco, 1988. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Saving in the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 15-40, Spring.
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