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Capital is Back: Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700–2010

Author

Listed:
  • Thomas Piketty

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement)

  • Gabriel Zucman

    (Department of Mathematics [Berkeley] - UC Berkeley - University of California [Berkeley] - UC - University of California, LSE - London School of Economics and Political Science)

Abstract

How do aggregate wealth-to-income ratios evolve in the long run and why? We address this question using 1970–2010 national balance sheets recently compiled in the top eight developed economies. For the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France, we are able to extend our analysis as far back as 1700. We find in every country a gradual rise` of wealth-income ratios in recent decades, from about 200–300% in 1970 to 400–600% in 2010. In effect, today's ratios appear to be returning to the high values observed in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (600–700%). This can be explained by a long-run asset price recovery (itself driven by changes in capital policies since the world wars) and by the slowdown of productivity and population growth, in line with the β=sg Harrod-Domar-Solow formula. That is, for a given net saving rate s = 10%, the long-run wealth-income ratio β is about 300% if g = 3% and 600% if g = 1.5%. Our results have implications for capital taxation and regulation and shed new light on the changing nature of wealth, the shape of the production function, and the rise of capital shares.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Piketty & Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "Capital is Back: Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700–2010," Post-Print halshs-01109372, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-01109372
    DOI: 10.1093/qje/qju018
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    United Kingdom; Germany; United States; Price level; France; wealth-to-income ratios;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution

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