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Wealth and the capitalist spirit

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  • Francis, Johanna L.

Abstract

The wealth distribution in the U.S. is more unequal than either the income or earnings distribution, a fact current models of saving behavior have difficulty explaining. Using Max Weber's [Weber, M. (1905). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Charles Scribners' and Sons (1958 translated edition)] idea that individuals may have a 'capitalist spirit', I construct and simulate a model where individuals accumulate wealth for its own sake rather than as deferred consumption. Including capitalist spirit preferences in a simple life cycle model, with no other modifications, generates a skewness of wealth consistent with that observed in the U.S. economy. Furthermore, capitalist spirit preferences provide a way to generate decreasing risk aversion with increases in wealth without resorting to idiosyncratic rates of time preference.

Suggested Citation

  • Francis, Johanna L., 2009. "Wealth and the capitalist spirit," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 394-408, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:31:y:2009:i:3:p:394-408
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    4. Sağlam Çağri & Turan Agah & Turan Hamide, 2014. "Saddle-node bifurcations in an optimal growth model with preferences for wealth habit," Studies in Nonlinear Dynamics & Econometrics, De Gruyter, vol. 18(2), pages 1-12, April.
    5. Thomas Goda, 2018. "The global concentration of wealth [Persistence of power, elites, and institutions]," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(1), pages 95-115.
    6. Michael Kumhof & Romain Rancière & Pablo Winant, 2015. "Inequality, Leverage, and Crises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1217-1245, March.
    7. Mario Amendola & Jean-Luc Gaffard & Fabrizio Patriarca, 2017. "Inequality and growth: the perverse relation between the productive and the non-productive assets of the economy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 531-554, July.
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    9. Juin-jen Chang & Chia-ying Liu & Hsiao-wen Hung, 2013. "Does Performance-Based Compensation Boost Economic Growth or Lead to More Income Inequality?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89(284), pages 72-82, March.
    10. Rannenberg, Ansgar, 2017. "The effect of fiscal policy and forward guidance with preferences over wealth," VfS Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168070, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Sebastian Gechert & Jan Siebert, 2019. "Preferences over wealth," IMK Working Paper 200-2019, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    12. Thomas Goda, 2014. "Global trends in relative and absolute wealth concentrations," Documentos de Trabajo CIEF 010897, Universidad EAFIT.
    13. Jizheng Huang & Heng-fu Zou, 2011. "Asset pricing and the Modigliani-Miller theorem with the spirit of capitalism," CEMA Working Papers 456, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
    14. Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2015. "The Optimal Use of Government Purchases for Stabilization," NBER Working Papers 21322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Mehmet Özer & Çağrı Sağlam, 2016. "Strategic Interaction And Catching Up," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 168-181, April.
    16. Brand, Claus & Bielecki, Marcin & Penalver, Adrian, 2018. "The natural rate of interest: estimates, drivers, and challenges to monetary policy JEL Classification: E52, E43," Occasional Paper Series 217, European Central Bank.
    17. Ansgar Rannenberg, 2019. "Forward guidance with preferences over safe assets," Working Paper Research 364, National Bank of Belgium.
    18. Saez, Emmanuel & Stantcheva, Stefanie, 2018. "A simpler theory of optimal capital taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 120-142.
    19. Tokuoka, Kiichi, 2012. "Is wealth accumulation a luxury good?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(3), pages 523-526.
    20. Michael Kumhof & Romain Ranciere & Pablo Winant, 2013. "Inequality, Leverage and Crises; The Case of Endogenous Default," IMF Working Papers 13/249, International Monetary Fund.
    21. Davoine, Thomas, 2012. "Time constraints, saving and old age," Economics Working Paper Series 1221, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    22. Gruber, Noam, 2018. "Keeping up with the Zhangs: Relative income and wealth, and household saving behavior," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 77-95.
    23. Mario Amendola & Jean Luc Gaffard & Fabrizio Patriarca, 2015. "Inequality and Growth : the perverse relation between the productivity and the non-productive assets of the economy," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2015-28, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    24. Jizheng Huang & Heng-fu Zou, 2013. "Asset Pricing, Capital Structure and the Spirit of Capitalism in a Production Economy," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 367-384, November.
    25. Gonzalez, Ignacio & Trivin, Pedro, 2019. "The Global Rise of Asset Prices and the Decline of the Labor Share," MPRA Paper 94587, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Capitalist spirit Life cycle Wealth inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand

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