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The Role of Permanent Income and Demographics in Black/White Differences in Wealth

  • Joseph G. Altonji


    (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

  • Ulrich Doraszelski

We explore the extent to which the huge race gap in wealth can be explained with properly constructed income and demographic variables. In some instances we explain the entire wealth gap with income and demographics provided that we estimate the wealth model on a sample of whites. However, we typically explain a much smaller fraction when we estimate the wealth model on a black sample. Using sibling comparisons to control for intergenerational transfers and the effects of adverse history, we find that differences in income and demographics are not likely to account for the lower explanatory power of the black wealth models. Our analysis of growth models of wealth suggests that differences in savings behavior and/or rates of return play an important role.

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Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 850.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:850
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  1. Menchik, Paul L & Jianakoplos, Nancy Ammon, 1997. "Black-White Wealth Inequality: Is Inheritance the Reason?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 428-42, April.
  2. Menchik, Paul L & David, Martin, 1983. "Income Distribution, Lifetime Savings, and Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 672-90, September.
  3. Joseph G. Altonji & Ulrich Doraszelski, 2005. "The Role of Permanent Income and Demographics in Black/White Differences in Wealth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
  4. Robert Barsky & John Bound & Kerwin Charles & Joseph Lupton, 2001. "Accounting for the Black-White Wealth Gap: A Nonparametric Approach," NBER Working Papers 8466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst, 2002. "The Correlation of Welath Across Generations," NBER Working Papers 9314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. McGarry, K & Schoeni, R-F, 1996. "Measurement and the Redistribution of Resources Within the Family," Papers 96-11, RAND - Reprint Series.
  8. Jonathan Gruber & Aaron Yelowitz, 1997. "Public Health Insurance and Private Savings," UCLA Economics Working Papers 772, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Hubbard, R Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1995. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 360-99, April.
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  12. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1997. "Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1121-66, December.
  13. Dunn, Thomas & Holtz-Eakin, Douglas, 2000. "Financial Capital, Human Capital, and the Transition to Self-Employment: Evidence from Intergenerational Links," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 282-305, April.
  14. Edward N. Wolff, . "Racial Wealth Disparities Is the Gap Closing?," Economics Public Policy Brief Archive ppb_66, Levy Economics Institute.
  15. 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.
  16. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Discussion Papers 96-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  17. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst, 2002. "The Transition To Home Ownership And The Black-White Wealth Gap," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 281-297, May.
  18. Koenker, Roger W & Bassett, Gilbert, Jr, 1978. "Regression Quantiles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 33-50, January.
  19. James P. Smith, 1995. "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30, pages s158-s183.
  20. Wilhelm, M.O., 1990. "Bequest Behavior And The Effect Of Heirs' Earnings: Testing The Altruistic Model Of Bequests," Papers 9-90-12, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  21. Robert W. Fairlie & Bruce D. Meyer, 2000. "Trends in Self-Employment among White and Black Men during the Twentieth Century," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(4), pages 643-669.
  22. Joseph Altonji & Ulrich Doraszelski & Lewis M. Segal, 2000. "Black/white differences in wealth," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 38-50.
  23. Paul L. Menchik, 1980. "Primogeniture, Equal Sharing, and the U.S. Distribution of Wealth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(2), pages 299-316.
  24. Francine D. Blau & John W. Graham, 1990. "Black-White Differences in Wealth and Asset Composition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 321-339.
  25. Erik Hurst & James P. Ziliak, 2001. "Welfare Reform and Household Saving," JCPR Working Papers 234, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  26. Lashawn Richburg Hayes, 2000. "Do the Poor Pay More? An Empirical Investigation of Price Dispersion in Food Retailing," Working Papers 825, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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  28. Joseph G. Altonji & Rosa L. Matzkin, 2001. "Panel Data Estimators for Nonseparable Models with Endogenous Regressors," NBER Technical Working Papers 0267, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  30. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1998. "Trends in homeownership: race, demographics, and income," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 53-72.
  31. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
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