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The evolution of wealth inequality over half a century: The role of taxes, transfers and technology

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  • Kaymak, Barış
  • Poschke, Markus

Abstract

Over the last 50 years the U.S. tax system went through a striking transformation that reduced the effective tax rates for top income groups and raised transfers to seniors. This paper investigates the macroeconomic repercussions of this change in policy, particularly for the distributions of income, wealth and consumption. Changes in taxes and transfers account for nearly half of the rise in wealth concentration. Nonetheless, their impact on the distributions of income and consumption has been minor due to changes in equilibrium prices and the offsetting effects of tax cuts and transfers on the dispersion of consumption. Results highlight the role of increasing wage dispersion during this period as the main driver of trends in inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Kaymak, Barış & Poschke, Markus, 2016. "The evolution of wealth inequality over half a century: The role of taxes, transfers and technology," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 1-25.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:77:y:2016:i:c:p:1-25
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jmoneco.2015.10.004
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    Cited by:

    1. Per Krusell & Anthony Smith & Joachim Hubmer, 2015. "The historical evolution of the wealth distribution: A quantitative-theoretic investigation," 2015 Meeting Papers 1406, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Weijie Luo, 2017. "Inequality and Growth in the 21st Century," Discussion Papers 17/18, Department of Economics, University of York.
    3. Andreas Fagereng & Luigi Guiso & Davide Malacrino & Luigi Pistaferri, 2016. "Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth," EIEF Working Papers Series 1615, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Nov 2016.
    4. Badel, Alejandro & Daly, Moira & Huggett, Mark & Nybom, Martin, 2018. "Top Earners: Cross-Country Facts," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 100(3), pages 237-257.
    5. Garbinti, Bertrand & Goupille-Lebret, Jonathan & Piketty, Thomas, 2017. "Accounting for Wealth Inequality Dynamics: Methods, Estimates and Simulations for France (1800-2014)," CEPR Discussion Papers 11848, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2016. "Skewed Wealth Distributions: Theory and Empirics," NBER Working Papers 21924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Moritz Kuhn & Moritz Schularick & Ulrike I. Steins, 2017. "Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016," CESifo Working Paper Series 6608, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Pham-Dao, Lien, 2016. "Public Insurance and Wealth Inequality - A Euro Area Analysis," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145942, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. repec:red:ecodyn:v:18:y:2017:i:1:agenda is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Boehl, Gregor & Fischer, Thomas, 2017. "Capital Taxation and Investment: Matching 100 Years of Wealth Inequality Dynamics," Working Papers 2017:8, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    11. Bettina Brueggemann, 2017. "Higher Taxes at the Top: The Role of Entrepreneurs," Department of Economics Working Papers 2017-16, McMaster University.
    12. repec:red:issued:16-223 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Weijie Luo & Andrew Pickering & Paulo Santos Monteiro, 2017. "Inequality and the Size of Government," Discussion Papers 17/02, Department of Economics, University of York.
    14. Giovanni Gallipoli & Brant Abbott, 2017. ""Permanent Income" Inequality," 2017 Meeting Papers 1033, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    15. Kasa, Kenneth & Lei, Xiaowen, 2018. "Risk, uncertainty, and the dynamics of inequality," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 60-78.
    16. Böhl, Gregor & Fischer, Thomas, 2017. "Can taxation predict US top-wealth share dynamics?," IMFS Working Paper Series 118, Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Monetary and Financial Stability (IMFS).
    17. Dan Cao & Wenlan Luo, 2017. "Persistent Heterogeneous Returns and Top End Wealth Inequality," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 26, pages 301-326, October.
    18. Kuhn, Moritz & Schularick, Moritz & Steins, Ulrike I., 2018. "Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016," Working Papers 9, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute.
    19. Ulrike Steins & Moritz Schularick & Moritz Kuhn, 2017. "Wealth and Income Inequality in America, 1949-2013," 2017 Meeting Papers 931, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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