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Wealth Dynamics in the 1980s and 1990s: Sweden and the United States

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  • Anders Klevmarken,
  • Joseph P. Lupton
  • Frank P. Stafford

Abstract

Given differences in public saving programs between Sweden and the United States, an examination of household private wealth accumulation in these two countries can be enlightening. In this paper we examine wealth inequality and mobility in Sweden and the United States over the past decade. We show that wealth inequality has been significantly greater in the United States than in Sweden and, while remaining relatively constant since the mid-1980s in Sweden, has increased in the United States. In addition to less inequality and a higher median wealth, we also show that wealth quintile mobility in the 1990s has been 25.7 percent higher in Sweden, as measured by Shorrocks’ index. Noting the role of various demographic components in shaping the patterns of wealth mobility as well as the importance of the initial wealth distribution, we utilize a matching algorithm that controls for these differences. Matching on the initial wealth distribution alone accounts for most of the mobility difference between the two countries and yields a Shorrocks’ index in the United States 11.1 percent less than that in Sweden. Adjusting for the large degree of imputation in the Swedish data, the U.S. index is only 3.4 percent to 6.1 percent less than that of Sweden. Along with exploring the role of racial composition differences, we conclude that demographic vari- ation between Sweden and the United States plays very little role in explaining wealth mobility beyond that explained by the initial wealth distribution. Despite the higher quintile mobility in Sweden, dollar mobility is still higher in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Anders Klevmarken, & Joseph P. Lupton & Frank P. Stafford, 2003. "Wealth Dynamics in the 1980s and 1990s: Sweden and the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:38:y:2003:i:2:p322-353
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    2. Christopher D. Carroll, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55.
    3. Erik Hurst & Ming Ching Luoh & Frank P. Stafford, 1998. "The Wealth Dynamics of American Families, 1984-94," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 267-338.
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    Cited by:

    1. Katarzyna Sałach & Michał Brzeziński, 2020. "Political connections and the super-rich in Poland," Working Papers 2020-17, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    2. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin & Mi Luo, 2019. "Wealth Distribution and Social Mobility in the US: A Quantitative Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(5), pages 1623-1647, May.
    3. Hochguertel, Stefan & Ohlsson, Henry, 2011. "Wealth mobility and dynamics over entire individual working life cycles," Working Paper Series 1301, European Central Bank.
    4. Anthony Shorrocks & James Davies, 2018. "Comparing global inequality of income and wealth," WIDER Working Paper Series 160, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Timothy Smeeding & Eva Sierminska & Andrea Brandolini, 2006. "Comparing Wealth Distribution across Rich Countries: First Results from the Luxembourg Wealth Study," LWS Working papers 1, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    6. Hochguertel, Stefan & Ohlsson, Henry, 2012. "Who is at the top? Wealth mobility over the life cycle," Working Paper Series 2012:1, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    7. Hugh Rockoff, 2008. "Great Fortunes of the Gilded Age," NBER Working Papers 14555, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2018. "Skewed Wealth Distributions: Theory and Empirics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(4), pages 1261-1291, December.
    9. Mi Luo & Alberto Bisin & Jess Benhabib, 2015. "Wealth Inequality and Social Mobility," 2015 Meeting Papers 364, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Caroline Freund & Sarah Oliver, 2016. "The Origins of the Superrich: The Billionaire Characteristics Database," Working Paper Series WP16-1, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    11. James B. Davies & Anthony F. Shorrocks, 2018. "Comparing global inequality of income and wealth," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2018-160, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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